Mark Kleyn (Pallmer/Elm City String Quartet) has teamed up with Patient Records to release Foot Hold, his first recorded collection of solo viola improvisations.
We’ve all heard music referred to as being a universal language. But that doesn’t mean all music speaks to everyone. As music lovers, we have a tendency to curate our listening habits through a series of self-defined parameters that speak as much to our likes as they do our dislikes. But boundaries can be fluid, and sometimes it just takes one musician or group to open our ears to something new or to help us reconnect with sounds that have, over time, been pushed to the side, neglected or temporarily misplaced amongst the endless stream of familiar sounds we consume on a regular basis. When they happen, these small acts of “crossing over” can often yield the most rewarding results.
For the past five years the Fredericton-based boutique record label Patient Records has been helping musicians step outside their own individual creative boundaries, encouraging experimentation as a means to explore this language we all interpret differently. While the label has been dormant for the past couple of years, the silence was broken this morning with the release of Foot Hold, the debut EP from violist Mark Kleyn (Pallmer/Elm City String Quartet).
“I’ve been a fan of Pallmer for a while now,” said Patient Records’ founder Eric Hill. “When I approached them for a new track to put on the compilation I was planning, Mark mentioned needing a home for this new EP. It seemed like a no-brainer.”
Mark Kleyn is very much a crossover performer in his own right. As a classically trained musician, Kleyn is known throughout the province as a co-founder of the Elm City String Quartet and one half of the neo-classical duo Pallmer. As Pallmer, Kleyn and his partner, cellist Emily Kennedy, have created a place within the province’s indie music community for music that could easily be categorized as being classically based. With the release of Foot Hold, Kleyn has introduced another aspect of his playing: improvisation.
“Before I went to Music School for my undergrad, I did a lot of singer-songwriter guitar stuff,” said Kleyn. “When I went to music school, though, this part of me took a back seat to playing classical music. The last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with songwriting projects with other people. This let me step back into the creative process of writing. The Foot Hold EP was my way of stepping fully into the writing process and giving myself enough time and space to figure out my sound.”
“I’m self-critical, tend to over-plan, and I second-guess myself a lot when working with others. I decided a good way to deal with these issues was to create some music just for myself.”
For some, improvisational music is the antithesis of classical music. But for someone like Klyen who is able to exist in both these worlds, balancing one with the other has proven to be a healthy practice, each feeding the needs the other creates.
“While playing with other projects, I noticed a lot of things about my own personality that get in the way of creating,” said Kleyn. “I’m self-critical, tend to over-plan, and I second-guess myself a lot when working with others. I decided a good way to deal with these issues was to create some music just for myself.”
Kleyn recorded and edited all four tracks at home using Garageband, a loop pedal and a minimal amount of equipment.
“It’s all instrumental, and there’s a lot of improvisation,” he said. “I tried not to plan too much, so most of it was composed step-by-step. I get in my head a lot when trying to come up with stuff, so this was a great exercise in trying to listen to the other parts, feel where the music was wanting to go, and to follow the First Thought – Best Thought idea.
Each of the four improvisations that make up Foot Hold find Kleyn exploring the relationship between tone and memory to create vivid textures that build and break across a range of mood and emotion. Through the use of layered melodies that act as both foundation and catalyst, Kleyn’s solo debut offers listeners an escape from the perceived confines of classically-based music.
“When I was writing the music, I didn’t have any particular scenes or images in mind. Listening back to them, they all reminded me of different memories of mine. The memories weren’t so much stories as much as a couple of vivid images and the feeling of being in a particular place.”
With the release of Foot Hold, Patient Records have announced plans for a series of split single releases planned for the coming months featuring new work from Atlantic Canadian artists, each backed by compositions from Patient Records “house band” Counting on Downstairs.
“Originally planned as a compilation album in the manner of previous the Patient Records release Approaches, this slow release strategy was adopted to allow more time for artists to contribute and hopefully continue to generate interesting sounds through the cold months,” said Hill.