Interview: Triac

I’ve listened to Triac’s new album in several different contexts. On a nocturnal walk over headphones. Via speakers during evening reading. Sat at the back of a busy cafe. The experience is drastically different each time. These clouds of sound – faint, ambiguous dispersals of laptop, piano and bass – are sensitive to even the most minor adjustment in context. Like the shadows of the spectator spilling over a black and white painting, the source material merges with its environment and its perceiver.

“Here” is the Italian trio’s second album for LINE, following the release of the beautiful “Days” back in 2015. Below, Triac and I discuss the new album, the concept of belonging and the listener as a fourth player.

How and why did Triac first come together?

We met eachother many years ago. One day it happened that while Marco and Augusto were playing together in a IV-century church for an improvisational gig, Rossano was invited to listen to us and we decided to try to play together following more defined aesthetic lines.

After some attempts we discovered that we have something new to say together. Triac was born this way, from a meeting of elective affinities.

I understand that you now live in different cities. Where are you all presently based?

Marco, our pianist/synth player, has lived in Perugia, Umbria, for a few years. Rossano and Augusto live in two towns close to Pescara – respectively Città Sant’Angelo and Moscufo – in Abruzzo, centre of Italy. 
The places where we live are incredible from a landscaping point of view and this spatial-temporal collocation is an important part of our compositional choices.

Personally I feel a certain “placelessness” within your sound, and I wonder whether this has anything to do with Triac’s absence of a fixed geographical home. The album title of Here could also be interpreted as a musing on this theme. How does the physical distance between you shape the characteristics of your music (if at all)?

This topic is really complex. In reality it could be considered that one does not belong to places, or more in general in contexts. It’s not the physical specific distance that influences our compositions (and the consequential choice of the titles of our albums, as Days or In A Room) but the sense of not belonging that collocates us far from the “here” and “now”.

This lack of a referral point that identifies a sort of “home” is evident in an ambivalent tonal setting, a sort of flotation between distant and parallel worlds.

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It’s very difficult to identify the instruments at work within the tracks on Here. The tones are constantly merging into their surroundings; everything is pale and indistinct. Is there any reason that you seem to gravitate to this dislocation between a sound and its source instrument?

From our point of view, every instrument offers timbral and harmonic possibilities that go beyond the common usage in the music.
 For us, having a meaningful experience in orthodox musical contexts is driven by a sort of atmosphere of circumstances.

In this way, an electric bass assumes unfamiliar sounds, the laptop plays less synthetic and the piano’s sound is unrecognisable.
 The timbres, that are developed in a very rigorous manner, are perceived in the air as a sort of collective unconscious. The sound assumes an atmospherical real concreteness like a natural element, such as rain, clouds or whatever.

Looping and repetition seem to form a prominent part of Here, although the repeats are framed differently every time. I feel a tension between hearing something I recognise within a context that’s forever changing; these sounds feel both increasingly familiar and increasingly estranged from me. What draws you toward the utilisation of looping, and how does looping affect your relationship with particular sounds as composers?

Your question is really pertinent and holds part of the answer itself.
 The loops contain by themselves the musical speech that is going to be developed. 
In our case we work with three voices, like an ancient “organum”.
The loops play like a canon, one on the other, talking and dissolving.
 Our compositions develop from these beginnings.
 The result is prismatic so that the listener is involved in the compositions like a “fourth player”, a vibrant and resonant element that continues the music elsewhere.

Many moments on Here seem to point toward the influence of orchestral music. Certain refrains sound reminiscent of brass instruments (“Here part VI”) or strings (“Here part II”). I hope you don’t mind that hear a certain affection for William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops here; in fact, I saw you refer to him as a “master” in recent Facebook post. Are you inspired by any particular orchestral music in the creation of your music?

We are fortunate to know William Basinski personally, and we often meet each other when he comes to Italy. We appreciate his great humanity and his musical aesthetic.
 Our poetics are analogous and we can tell you that in many occasions William has shown a sincere and generous appreciation for our music.

Since the 80s, we have passionately followed the compositional developments of musicians like Bill Frisell, David Torn, Eberard Weber, Steve Reich, David Sylvian and the ancient poliphony, all the ECM productions that are the root of our musical DNA. 
Sure, as you point out in your question, our works are drenched of orchestral classical tradition of the ‘900s and ‘800s up until baroque music.
 Everything we listen to emerges naturally and spontaneously in everything we do.

There’s also an audiovisual element to the project. The videos I’ve seen all seem to centre on the slow progression of organic processes (cloud formations, blossoming flowers). Do you intend for the music of Triac to emulate nature and the manner of its unfolding?

We’ve been realising videos for a long time. It has become natural to visualise the abstractions of sound with moving images. At first we spoke of atmospheric events that we perceive not only with eyes but with our breath too. The movements of clouds, the progressive fading of horizons, the changing climatic of events drive our improvisational practice. The improvisation is partially organised by the environmental fluxus.

The natural element is then at the centre of our poetics and of the way we intend the improvisation.

What other music or sounds have you all been listening to recently?

Gregorio Allegri – “Miserere”.

What’s next for Triac?

We have a new work ready to publish and we are recording another album that will be ready for the end of summer 2017.