Hush Hush Records is honored to help present ‘Critical; Mass‘ (HH140), a new collaborative release between Washington, DC-based duo Requiem and UK-based experimental cellist Simon McCorry. A masterful fusion of their cinematic and minimal strengths, the album’s three long-form pieces swell and sway between ambient, drone, neo-classical, and psychedelic zones for a sound that’s always beautiful and ultimately hopeful, yet never afraid to touch the ugly side.
Requiem is the musical project of Washington, DC-based musicians Tristan Welch and Douglas Kallmeyer, both accomplished solo musicians known for their cerebral and exploratory sonic tendencies. Tristan is a guitarist with a deep background in Washington, DC’s DIY music scene – originally playing in punk rock bands and noise-based projects before turning his attention to minimalist guitar compositions. Working full-time as a funeral home director, Tristan uses his painterly sonic creations to employ his intimate awareness and unique perspective of mortality through music.
Douglas Kallmeyer is a bit of an audio savant who’s worn multiple hats throughout his bustling music career. Picking up the bass at age 11, Douglas’ love of music led to life as a touring musician straight out of high school, before an obsession with sound systems, audio equipment, live mixing, and production engineering led to touring gigs with the bands Blonde Redhead, Shellac, Rancid, Phantogram, and more. In addition to quietly releasing his own solo music on a plethora of underground labels, Douglas was the driving force behind the independent label Verses Records and has worked for advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign, with Bell visuals, to promote awareness of social issues globally and spotlight the healing effects of music for those suffering from depression and PTSD.
Tristan Welch: Guitars, Electronics. Douglas Kallmeyer: Bass, Electronics. Simon McCorry: Cello, Electronics.
Stroud, UK-based artist Simon McCorry rounds out this trans-Atlantic collaboration. Born in London to mixed Indian and British heritage, the classically trained cellist has worked as a composer and sound designer in theatre, film, and contemporary dance. Influenced by the boundary-pushing works of Aphex Twin, Jon Hassell, King Tubby, and György Ligeti, Simon has emerged as a prolific solo artist with a productive 2021 so far that has included the ‘Nature in Nature’ EP for Spanish label See Blue Audio, the stunning album ‘And Where Are You Really From?’ for anthéne’s Polar Seas Recordings imprint, as well as the collaborative album ‘the equation of time’ with anthéne for premiere UK label Whitelabrecs.
Strikingly powerful instrumental music filtered through a prism both haunting and gorgeous, ‘Critical; Mass’ features 3 epic songs by 3 artists following their own instinctual sonic paths. Also the latest in a flurry of long-distance collaborations to find a home on Hush Hush Records, this long-form album provides a potent soundtrack of our transformative early 2020s and further serves as a reflection of the musician’s desire for connection amidst an apocalyptic, harrowing, and dramatically hopeful backdrop.
We caught up with all three musicians to give you their perspective on this new asterful recording and their intriguing collaboration. Tristan Welch served his track by trac rundown and you can find it right under their statements below.
Tristan Welch: Doug and I are both based out of the Washington D.C. area – while we are engrained in the local music community I feel we are both a bit of outsiders. At a point a little bit before the Covid 19 pandemic we were recording and jamming just for the sake of music creation and recording it. A bit fed up with the standard idea of “how to release music” we began uploading the music on Bandcamp as singles with artwork dedicated to each piece. We used the name Requiem as it seemed fitting for our state of mind regarding the world at large. We always seem to be in a constant state of mourning. We did eventually release these pieces in whole via Verses Records as digital only compilation. True to our outsider nature but with a focus of building relationships we ended up in discussions to collaborate with UK based cello player Simon McCorry. We sent files from across the pond – but we did not want to focus on perfection. We asked Simon to record just as we had… simple honest takes with feeling. Some songs he created the base and others we did but either way it’s as honest as an expression can get even without being in the same room. Critical; Mass ended up turning into a beautiful ambient, post rock and neo classical recording that we feel excited about and feel only exists due to the need for connection.
Doug Kallmeyer: Tristan and Simon are both artists that released work through the Verses label collective, which is run by Doug. Tristan and Doug began to work together on Requiem as a way to capture the immediacy of improvised music, and as a form of creative catharsis- the process being to meet, record, listen back, render the tracks with as little mixing as possible, make a visual piece and title, and upload them for release. This resulted in 25 pieces of music from very few sessions, self- released on Bandcamp. And a compilation from those selections on the Verses imprint.
Wanting to expand the sound a bit more, we felt it would be appropriate to add strings. Doug had been following Simon McCorry’s work since his contribution to Verses benefit compilation, and asked him if he would be interested in a collaboration- remote, but using the same methods- one- take, no overdubs, reactive approach and the resulting work is what you hear now.
It is completely honest in its’ inception.
There will be some live performances hopefully this fall, due to the continental locations and travel restrictions most likely it will be the duo accompanied by a visual medium/ artist.
Maybe one day Tristan and Doug will meet Simon in person.
The standardized way of creating artistic, musical works is taught to be achieved by years of toiling in production and writing, revision, self doubt, expectation and destructive societal tendencies that serve to dilute the initial feeling that comes at the inception point of intent and execution. This attempt a magnification of of what is supposed to solicit an emotional response is, more often than not, detrimental to the purity of the art. Magic is a form of nature that manifests when doors are opened, not built as a mechanism for control. The methodology applied in the creation of Requiems’ music is meant to open doors.
Simon McCorry: I was really intrigued by Doug & Tristan’s Requiem projected when they started this in 2020 with a series of streamed performances. I always enjoy work where the performer creates everything from scratch in front of the audience. There are plenty of us doing this as solo artists with looping and other fx, it becomes more complicated when it is two or more people. With bass & guitar they created vast textures and sound worlds which took the listener far away from the realms usually associated with these instruments. So I was pretty chuffed when Doug approached me with the idea of a collaboration. The idea was to work pretty quickly without thinking too much and responding instinctually to the material we provided each other. Over a 2 or 3 month period last autumn we had 8 tracks which cover a variety of sonic territory.
Track by track commentary below…
Track by Track from Tristan Welch
1. Unknown; Pleasures – I believe Doug and I created the base for this one. While I remember listening back to our original mix I thought it sounded pretty and hopeful it was still dark. Once we got the song back with Simon’s take on what we had done both our minds were blown. While typically with this style of music I would expect some more washed out ambient layers from cello – Simon gives this track some beautiful plucked layers to not only musicality to the pieces but a great sense cinematic tension that to me feels heart-warming. When compiling the track order for this release with Alex Ruder from Hush Hush we were in all in agreement for this to be first taste on the tape and for the be let out as the first single as we felt it was contained a strong sense of beauty.
2. Herd; Immunity – With this title it may be somewhat obvious where our minds were at during the process. I’m pretty sure Simon created the first base for this track for Doug and I to play too. Simons very clear classical training is in full display here – with a clear love for experimentation given the under currents of feedback. While Doug and I don’t quite take a back seat – we will fill out the ambient longing and pensive sadness I feel is associated with this piece. With the physical release of this tape being a simple 1-2 punch we all felt this this was the perfect side B for the journey that is taken.
3. Class; War – This is a digital bonus track that comes when you purchase the tape through Bandcamp or streaming. It is much darker in nature. The underscore from Doug and I is very much in the “heavy drone” category ala Nadja, Sunn O))) and the likes. Simon picks up on this but blesses us with dirge like bows of cello floating over melting glaciers caused by the wealthy hunting for gasoline. Unknown; Pleasures & Herd; Immunity pair quite well and this is still in the same dramatic, cinematic realm but takes a bit of different turn so we all figured it’d just be a digital teaser for the future.