I met Raf back in 2013 at one of the clubs in Yerevan. He was part of a lineup with the French multi-instrumentalist Gautier Serre, also known as Igorrr. Raf’s performance caught me off guard, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover such a gem. He was performing under the moniker Unit Visor, and his subtle IDM grabbed my attention. He is arguably one of the most prolific Armenian sound artists. He has performed under many monikers, and the spectrum of his work is astonishing. Acknowledging his talent would be much easier if you had the opportunity to listen to many hours of his work. Unfortunately, his previous projects are not available on the web. I’ve been following his career since then and have had the great pleasure of curating several events involving him such as”Hand of Glory”, “Audio Visual Circle” at Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (NPAK).
Please introduce yourself. How did you start and what background do you have?
My musical background based on two radically different from each other life periods. From 1994 to 1999, the professional education and the graduation of flute and piccolo classes at the local music school and the year 2000, when I have been switched to the computer music arts. In the end of 90s, I have been regularly listening and collecting CDs out of UK Jungle and Drum and Bass culture and the early influences in electronic music I have had obtained from that various field accordingly. To name a few fellow artists of that time such as Goldie, Photek, Shy FX, Adam F, LTJ Bukem is not enough to reveal the full influential list.
Then you started making electronic music yourself.
My first computer software to experiment with electronic sounds was Propellerhead ReBirth in 2000, and later I have started to use Propellerhead Reason and Ableton as main sequencers. I have been producing multipurpose music ranging from downtempo to uptempo, from soundtracks to dance music, but I have never been officially released on any internationally known record label so far. In 2013, after a few drum and bass gigs and experimental music performances in the locally known club Wormhole and meeting with the new local artists, I have been introduced to NPAK(Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art) community by getting an opportunity to perform my own experimental sounds and further trust in my musical outlook that has been built from these key periods in my career.
In 2016 I have been invited by Vardan Harutyunyan to perform at Soundspring experimental music festival in Batumi, Georgia along with the artists such as Lukasz Szalankiewicz, Piotr Kurek, Koka Nikoladze, TeTe Noize, Vincent Volt, Kuji Davituliani, and Irakli Abramashvili. In the same year, by the great initiative of curator Eva Khachatryan I have been invited to perform experimental music along with Cologne-based experimental turntablist Julia Bünnagel. In 2018 after launching my new project “Cast Coverts” I have been invited to perform at Unsound festival in Yerevan along with Stefan Betke (Pole), Rabih Beaini, and Davit Petrosyan (Cloistral) on the same stage. In the same year, I’ve received another promising invitation from Artur Loretsyan (The Monolog, Onetreeevn) to perform at Boiler Room Yerevan. In 2019, I have been invited to perform at Urvakan and Synthposium festivals held in Yerevan.
What are you up to now?
Now I’m living in Dilijan, Armenia and recently I have released two albums on my Bandcamp page, first album ‘Fluctuations’ consisting the selected sounds I’ve composed during the period of 2014 to 2019 and the second album is ‘Empty rooms left’ a mini-album consisting of four psycho-emotional gramophone simulated sound novels.
Who are the artists that excite you now? You have been evolving as an artist and your idols and taste must be developing as well.
The favorite artists and communities list impacting on my recent approach in sound art itself is quite wide but let’s be loyal to this part of the poll and name a few key artists and communities. Geir Jenssen – a Norwegian electronic musician who records as Biosphere whose breathtaking album ‘Substrata’ released in 1997 profoundly impacted on my philosophical-musical outlook and worldview. Lately, after continuous researchers, I have founded a couple of other astonishing Nordic / European artists and communities such as Janna Winderen, Vladislav Delay, Thomas Ankersmit, Thomas Köner, Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek, The 300 Acting Spaces and URSSS experimental electronic, electroacoustic communities are respectively among them. I’ve been recently playing sound pieces belonging to Italian modern experimental sound master Valerio Tricoli, French electroacoustic pioneers Pierre Bastien and France Jobin, and modern-day Japanese AV artist Ryoichi Kurokawa.
Can you elaborate on how you structure your sound? What you seek and what is important for you to achieve?
Usually, before composing any type of sound I ultimately work on a single pattern which mysteriously hints at another perfectly fitting pattern located on my subconscious level, and afterward, I figure out the whole structure of the composition bringing these possible patterns to the audible plateau. In other cases where I seek to achieve some sort of patterns based on the pre-visioned structure, I do lots of technical treatments to achieve the sound closest to the main vision I planned before the process, though it’s not typically working perfectly. First, I imagine the entire theme and then sketch it on the sequencer, mixing the patterns together and master them in the end. The essential part of the process is the processing itself and the time I spend on the composition. I’m sure when I experiment with the sound, some sort of invisible forces follow the process accordingly.
Many artists intentionally leave errors and mistakes in their work. It makes it more human. What is your approach to errors and imperfections of art?
It’s obvious that we all tend to do mistakes whether they are technical or daily social but in art, these perfects sometimes turn to accidental imperfects and impress more than what was planned to achieve. This I call MAGIC rather than imperfection (of momentum), in my surreal opinion it is a consistent part of God’s psyco-mental architecture. We do it all, we are perfect imperfects and imperfect perfects!
What about your work process during live acts and how you deal with imperfect perfects?
I am always asking myself do I have to go that much artist ego while improvising live on my audience and taking care of that audience and maybe get shy of possible failures to not ‘bore’ them or disintegrate, disorient them. That’s why I mostly do live the scenting way of precomposed in a manner of self-representation and process on a bucket of layers individually. I separate live performances in two categories – live shows and live performances from the point 0. To my recent shows, I can give a fair name as live representation s but parallelly doing live performances in my room in front of myself and record them to represent my recorded lives on the stage, so perfect imperfects or imperfect perfects are also the part of my wholeness.
How do you evaluate feedback from the audience during live? Does it make you adjust somehow, take a turn, improvise maybe?
Quite a lot based on feelings Intercommunication, eye to eye spot and familiar sense of interaction when you see how the audience react during your live processing decisions and take turns or continue to grow your art ego in the pre-planned way it’s quite the matter of format of your particular appearance.
What is art ego?
In my opinion, this abstract can be interpreted as uncompromising an appearance in expectations of the particular audience waiting for expected forms of art for a particular place and format.
Lots of mental turbulence happened in the early period of lockdown, which after a while provoked me to launch a borderpanic radio channel on Mixlr. Within a month of subscription, I have released a series of podcasts greatly consisted of abstract electronic and electroacoustic records, later I composed a gramophone simulated four pieces sound novel titled Empty rooms left which I have recently released on my bandcamp page. New explorations and new experiences have erupted during 2020. It was a hard and quite emotional year for sure. New skills are what I’m still dreaming to evaluate and to work with, It’s surely an AV culture.
Can you go more into detail about AV culture? How do you see your future?
I have just boiled water in a transparent electric pot and when boiled water begin discharging and the surface of water slightly swinging out and the bottom of the pot zoomed and split from the rest of its complete shape making ground for visual excitement. I wish I could record this process and familiar eye joys and join with my sounds and share the same insights with the audience, I just need to grab the right equipment and making it work, it’s quite an attractive way of self-representation working with visual and sound together, this makes us more complex and more motivated. The modern way of AV representation based on vvvv, Resolume, and Max/Msp platforms providing a variety of mapping options and algorithms to make perfect AV shows, the only difficulty to achieve these important tools is the lack of local video equipment rental services availability and long-term exploitation inclusivity. Though It’s still a dream.
Header and footer photo by Tatev Tadevossyan
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