N/UM is a New York based project that consist of three members – a 5 times Grammy winner mixing and mastering engineer, a trained bass and guitar player with experience in improvised performance and a vocalist with contemporary arranging and composition skills.
Their debut release, titled Zebra, is an impressive improvised set without any pre-composed material. It was recorded during a single session in November of 2015 with each track continuously moving into the next one. The trio’s sound is aimed to fit to a club context but at the same time influences from their diverse background are noticeable, adding the project another scope of depth and complexity.
Ahead of Zebra’s release we got in touch with the trio to hear more about their project and thoughts.
Local Suicide: Hey guys! Thanks for chatting with us, where and how did you get to know each other?
N/UM: We met a long time ago at College in Boston and have been working on different projects after moving to New York City about 10 years ago.
LSD: You all have some background in music that isn’t club oriented, How was your penchant for club music developed throughout the years?
Jeremy: I grew up in Formentera, a tiny island next to Ibiza where the club scene has always been prominent. Me and Emil started DJ’ing in NYC where the scene has been picking up a lot during the last few years.
Emil: I have moved my focus through a lot of different genres through the years, but what I find really inspiring about contemporary electronic music is that it draws influence and sounds from so many different styles and combines them with danceability and a strong culture around it. I have spent many years closely studying the works of past composers and improvisers but in my mind I always knew that I wanted to apply that to something completely different.
Elias: I started getting into electronic music and the trance aspect of music a few years ago and have been trying to achieve these sounds and feelings with my guitar and effects in different settings.
LSD: What are the main things you’ve taken from being a trio and performing as N/UM?
While DJ’ing we brought in Elias to play guitar and bass, to get new inspiration with the tracks we were playing and wanted to explore a set that would be improvised rather than played. Performing as trio is fundamentally different than solo, since you get ideas from the other musicians. You also don’t have total control by yourself over the music so you have to achieve a group energy and feeling to communicate musical decisions.
As a DJ you showcase the scope of your record collection and your ability to connect with the vibe of the party and curate the music accordingly. When you experience a DJ who really blows your mind with those skills it is incredible, but for us, in addition to that, there is something very exciting about entering unchartered territory, where the music that comes out has never been played or heard before, where the audience not only affects what is played next on the sound system, but what music is created that night.
LSD: Can you explain a bit about your live set? What does a live set from N/UM look like? Who does what?
N/UM: We improvise our live sets, which on the one hand lets us take in the atmosphere, the people and the location and keeps us very alert and on the edge since the music is as new to us as to the listener. Jeremy controls drum machines, samples and he’s mixing the whole group in real time, Emil does vocals and synthesizers and Elias is playing guitar and bass.
LSD: Is there any piece of gear you find particularly appealing for this project?
N/UM: We experimented for a long time with different instruments and set ups before we arrived at the present one. We use a TR-808 drum machine, an SH-101, a Korg Mono/Poly and a Telecaster, which we really like and find essential to our sound.
LSD: What’s your take on the whole Analog vs. Digital debate? How do you split your productions between software and hardware?
N/UM: We always try to use technology for what it does best, and marry analog and digital. All sound sources are analog and mostly from the early eighties, all the mixing and to some degree the arranging part is done using digital tools 10001110011. Essentially, we use computers mainly to unify all the different analog parts into one instrument, played by three people. We all have a very strong preference for the sound and intuitive nature of analogue circuits and instruments.
LSD: What is Zebra EP about? what are the influences behind this work?
N/UM: Zebra represents our work flow and sonic excursions of the past year pretty well. It’s an improvised set that we recorded and composed live in one session. We are influenced by Minimal, House and Techno and want to see people dance, but we wanted to add organic elements through live composing and the use of instruments and voices.
LSD: After this debut release, what are N/UM next up to? any plans for the summer?
N/UM: We are working on our next album right now, expanding and developing our collective music machine and looking forward to playing a lot! Sunshine and dancing is a good combination.