As a musician Jim Brodhagen’s style is varies, from playing guitar in a number of doom and sludge metal bands, to the humor-laden glitch/industrial duo Bobbie Boob, but one endeavor Jim continues to work on is his atmospheric-electronica solo project, Spatial Distortion. On December 23, 2009 Brodhagen released his fourth Spatial Distortion album, Lucid.
In the two years since Spatial Distortion’s previous album, Cemetery For Thoughts That Sustained Worlds, Brodhagen has finely tuned his sound. By adding subtle complexity, and an overall sense of calm, Lucid’s soundscape has become considerably more sophisticated than it’s predecessors.
As a friend and neighbor I’ve always appreciated Jim’s opinions on music, and have a fondness for the various styles of music that he himself creates. Over these last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to hear Brodhagen’s sound mature. Which is why I was excited to learn that he was working on a new Spatial Distortion album. My interest compelled me to offer up my services in developing a some artwork to accompany the album, to which he graciously accepted. Upon receiving a couple early tracks to start my creative juices flowing I quickly realized that this album was going to be pretty amazing.
The final product did not disappoint. Full of highs and lows, Lucid comes off like an interpretive journey through the astral plane. While the soundscape is dynamic, it never pulls you too far in either direction. The tracks seem like vignettes of a point in time and space, and at the same time remain a part of the whole. The more upbeat tracks like Damaged Goods, Sacred Shapes and Changed Forever are tap-worthy if not downright danceable. Where as downtempo tracks such as Gold Into Green, Reality Perceived and Inside the Circle are contemplative without becoming brooding.
After the album’s release and giving it a thorough listen, I had the opportunity to shoot Jim some questions regarding his latest work, his influences and the thought process behind Lucid. If you have any additional questions comments for Jim about his work on Spatial Distortion. Feel free to leave it in the comments after the post.
There is a meditative quality to a number of tracks on Lucid. Is this sense of contemplation something you strive for in your solo work?
Funny you should ask that. The method I use to write music very often involves meditating to patterns of sound, rhythms, melodies and whatnot. In doing this, I can more easily hear things that I’d like to add, or adjust. I was reading about Salvador Dali a little while back, specifically about how he came up with ideas for his paintings. He claimed that he could look at anything and could see a myriad of patterns and images that he would simply put onto a canvas. In essense, this is what I do with sound. I can listen to patterns and rhythms in a meditative state of mind and hear new things that aren’t there. I then take that and incorporate it into my music. So, it stands to reason that my music would have a meditative quality to it and I’m pretty happy that you’ve picked up on that.
Was there a common theme that you tried to weave throughout Lucid?
Spatial Distortion began back in 2005 as a project where I could explore ambient-electronic music. Since then, I’ve been very inspired by sleep states, subconsciousness, geometry and astronomy. These are themes that come up repeatedly in Spatial Distortion album. Lucid is an auditory representation of my exploration into more subconscious forms of creative expression. I am personally very interested in the state-of-mind that comes directly between our waking selves and sleep, especially the few moments just before we rise into our waking selves. Songs like Gold Into Green and Inside The Circle are attempts at recreating the way I have felt in that state. Lucid, in general, is an album that is meant to serve as a vehicle for the exploration of our inner selves, the significance of geometry, the cosmos and what it means to be a human. Of course, to others it’s just some electro album that a random guy in Lincoln put together. I hope that the impression it gives is that of something light and casual, but with enough depth that someone can dive into it and tie some significant meaning to. There is a lot of hidden threads in the music that can lead a person to some interesting topics, should someone dig deep enough.
In your mind, is there one track that stands out the most, a track that you are particularly proud of?
Some of the tracks on Lucid are up to 3 years old, whereas other tracks were completed just days before the release of the album. So, there is a bit of a disconnect between what I see as the older tracks and the newer tracks. I also tend to prefer tracks that I’ve completed most recently in a “ooo it’s shiny and new” kind of way. As far as the older tracks go, Just Breathe is one of my favorites because I really like how the sample of the breathing machine subtly works itself into the song. Also, Reality Percieved is a track that has been around for a while that I really feel good about. Of the newer tracks, I’ve really been hooked on Gold Into Green and All Your Creations. I tried some new techniques on those and was very happy with the result. I don’t typically write with a lot of Major keys, which is why I think I like All Your Creations. I think the emotional response that Gold Into Green ilicits is the thing that hooks me about that song.
It’s been two years since your last Spatial Distortion release, during which time you’ve worked on a couple side projects. How have these projects influenced your process while working on Lucid?
For a good while, I was working on a side-project that was pretty similar to Spatial Distortion in sound, but emphasized live vocals and guitars. The time I spent writing for that project has given me a better perspective on how a good song should flow and has encouraged me to write more lyrical content and use more guitars. While Lucid has very little vocals and no guitars, you can expect to see more of that in coming albums.
Now, I know you’re a video game junky, and that you’re particularly proud of your expansive NES cartridge collection. So I have to ask, is Damaged Goods with it’s quasi-chip-tune beats a deliberate nod to your favorite pass-time?
Oh absolutely. I’m so ridiculously nostolgic for anything that reminds me of the old-school NES. Some of the music on old Nintendo games is really solid — Castlevania, Secret of Mana, Contra and so on. I do try to emulate those sounds often in my music and “Damaged Goods” is a great example of that, having the lo-fi synth sound front-and-center.
In the past you’ve performed live sets under as Spatial Distortion, opening for acts such as Bass Nectar. Do you have plans to take Spatial Distortion back out into the streets?
The last live set I played was over a year ago with Rena Jones and the New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago where a few early versions of tracks from Lucid were played. I would certainly like to play more live sets in 2010 and, in fact, I’ve already been approched about setting up some dates here in Lincoln. I’ll be posting any dates on my website as they are scheduled. I do feel Lucid is more approachble and certainly more danceable than any previous album and I am definitely looking forward to seeing how people react in a live setting.
What do envision as the ideal setting to fully appreciate Lucid?
Deprivation chamber [laughs] I say that only because I’d love to have a tank to listen to music in. Honestly, Spatial Distortion is excellent when listened to on a subconsious level. It’s music that doesn’t require a lot of focused attention to enjoy. It makes nice background music for doing things like working on a computer, riding a bike, sleeping, hanging out with friends, etc. I personally enjoy playing it in the background while I play Xbox 360.
Currently, you are offering Lucid free for download over at Last.fm, do you plan on distributing the album any other way?
I realize that downloading one track at a time from Last.fm is less than ideal. I will be providing not only MP3’s from Last.fm, but also full-quality WAV, AAC and even FLAC files on my official website very soon. I am also looking into releasing a very limited number of vinyl copies in the near future. Because the album is free, I fully encourage listeners to give the album to anyone they feel would enjoy it. It’s interesting… swapping digital music is the modern version of swapping tapes and I really dig that.
In addition to Last.FM, Jim is now offering Lucid in a variety of file formats and bitrates free to download and share through BandCamp. Be sure to check out his website for information on additional Lucid release information.