Premiere: The Hydra – Never Sync

Infinite Waves  always attracts our attention here at the Formant. Having featured releases from Assembler, Kraus, Infants and Panama Mirrors in the past, whenever we hear the Copenhagen-based label is on the cusp of another release, our ears prick up and we take note. This has happened again on the eve The Hydra joined the label with Never Sync. The Hydra has been a musical channel of expression for visual artist Dimitris Papadatos for some time, making it’s first impression on the world with a 2015 work entitled On Troubleshooting. That album established a conceptual auditory artist in the making with the title “inspired by Papadatos’ parallel work as a visual artist, art director and graphic designer”. It’s also “an intended tongue-in-cheek pun, towards all the jobs he finalised, but never got paid for.” Never Sync sees the visual artist continue on a train of thought established through his sophomore release, Morals with music that progresses as much as it stagnates, blending immersive sonic textures with the movement of percussion through 5 tracks that make an idiosyncratic mark on Infinite Waves’ discography as well as the artist’s own work.

Infinite Waves have given The Formant the pleasure of streaming the release ahead of its official release on Monday, which sees The Hydra accompany Soft Armour and Florescent Heights as part of a triple threat from the label. We also sent off some questions to Dimitris in the hope that he could give us further insight into his creative processes and some of the ideas behind Never Sync. Through the preceding Q&A we find an artist that’s concise and honest about his work, offering the reader a very real insight into the personal depth at which his works operates and the artistic individual behind the work.

Hi Dimitri. Your first album was said to have been an “intended tongue-in-cheek pun, towards all the jobs you finalised but never got paid for”. What was the inspiration for Never Sync?

Never Sync is the second part of a trilogy. The first part was Morals released by Nutty Wombat in 2015, Never Sync is the second and the third one is entitled Scan and is still waiting a release. I always prefer to work based on an axis of concepts such as power, deceit, control, communication and exploitation, ratification and denial. I am also interested in their influence on human relationships, social standards and political developments. The Hydra is all about that formulation of these concepts into sonar explorations. In a way it is my punk project. This trilogy is especially linked to this system of concepts and ideas. For the recordings of these 3 albums I have extensively used material drawn from royalty-free sound archives and websites. I was especially interested in the sounds that had the most downloads .I tried to not be very aesthetically selective; I would gather samples that may even sound bad-taste or obsolete. I reproduced these sounds using my own hardware and software and of course I manipulated them in my own fashion. The basic aim was to explore the idea of common knowledge and collective aesthetics as perceived from the angle of the creators themselves; be they professionals or amateurs.

How has The Hydra evolved since that debut and has the evolution been concomitant with your work as a visual artist? How did music find its way into your artistic vocabulary as a form of expression in the first place?

“On Troubleshooting” was not a debut per se. It was definitely The Hydra’s first official physical release but of course there have been many CD-r’s and DIY tapes before it, as well as a good number of digital releases. You can find everything here. Soft Minerals that came out via Phinery on January and is closer to the “On Troubleshooting” cassette. It consists mostly of material recorded in my old studio back in 2015. I personally enjoy this ambiguity in my work and the fact that there is no linear deciphering on how it evolves. The evolution of each project is completely internal. What actually changes is the process and with it the sound develops new properties. I never felt the need to actively associate my work as a visual artist to the progression of my musical projects, nor does the sound work yield a translation in visual terms. My work practice changed very gradually within the years from visual to audio as I would find it more fitting to examine my fields of interest through a more immaterial form. There was no big decision or determination in how this occurred. My work as a visual artist has always had a conceptual origination and this is apparent in all of my sound based work as well.

The thing that struck me about your music is the texture. How do you approach the space in your music?

To me space equals time. I mostly record the tracks in real-time, producing each track with an approach closer to musique concrète, therefore I use the mixing desk as my main instrument, manipulating each pre-recorded sound according to my état d’esprit in a very idiosyncratic matter.The textures most of the times are so complex as I am freely taking my time with them, changing the frequencies, equalizing, arranging the effects and distributing the tonal values in real-time. This process works as a mantra to me; it is a place of recovery and a field of concentration. The work to me is in a way spiritual even though this is not really apparent. This spirituality is encrypted intentionally as I want the music to be approachable from many different directions.

It’s never quite ambient either, and I find clear well-rounded forms to your progression. How do you find a balance between those two different sides of the musical coin? What do you hope the result will be for the listener on Never Sync and how would it compare to your own desires for the music?

It’s not quite ambient and it’s also not quite danceable as well. When I work on my tracks I think of the physicality they will carry, be they presented in a club setting, or listened through headphones while walking, or even in a more intimate home listening session. I try to imagine the listener primarily as a functioning human body and secondary as an aesthetic conscience. I don’t have a clear image of how the listener of my music approaches it or how I would like them to approach it for that matter. I have, of course, a system of ideas behind it that I am very happy and open to share with someone that shows interest but I would be naïve to think that everyone should be on the same mindset when listening to the music. I prefer setting-up a field open for many interpretations and let people sink into it. I believe it sometimes needs time to settle in and it can be very welcoming and approachable as much as it can be alienating and contemplative.

The way Never Sync is structured is very close to the way I handle my material on a live performance setting. This physicality that I referred to above, is also re-applied to the work whenever I perform these tracks live. There is a choreography per se – as I am alone on stage and have to manipulate many versatile sound sources, that encompasses moments of tension, rigor and calmness and this is definitely reflected in the sonic result.

A poem that accompanies the release reads in the last line: “Always compatible but never synchronised.” This has some relation to the title I assume, but can you tell us what it is that’s exactly compatible but never synchronised? The rest of the poem appears to be about unrelated, chain reactions. How does this relate to what we hear on Never Sync?

Apart from describing a very basic modus operandi on my productions in which I never use any quantizing, having the sounds and beats flow more abstractly in the composition, “Never Sync” explores the forms of the interchangeable empowerment inside an intimate relationship. I am interested in how social structures and outside factors such as career, ambition, financial status and technology are transforming human encounters. Synchronization and compatibility are terms that refer mainly to a mechanical behaviour but can also be used to describe the functionality of human relationships.

By re-appropriating these terms I find a more accurate translation to the subjects that my work explores. What ”compatible but never synchronised” refers to is the form that a specific liaison takes, after all of the above infiltrate it, and how this newly created ”shape” is a very important factor in keeping it alive, healthy and evolving. I see it with my partner. She is an artist and we both work very extensively on our projects that it becomes exhausting to the relationship. But our mutual understanding towards the situation we are in and towards solving our problems, as well as the love and communication that we share, brings us closer than it would if we were two carefree individuals with a lot of free time and space. It is a post-apocalyptic economical nightmare and we are trying to save ourselves and each other.

The rest of the poem is also connected to this formulation of affair. To me, it is like trying to keep sane and peaceful in a situation of total war, and understand that communication is the only shield that can protect what one holds sacred. Of course there are moments of confusion, anger and hostility; these are, sadly yet inevitably, social and economical weapons of survival. Understanding this system is highly important to me and trying to find methods to overcome it, with the help of another is a vital matter. It is like applying new skin over an old wound.

Your visual work is said to be “determined only by an internal need for completion”. Is this the same for your work as The Hydra and when do you feel a song is complete? 

This phrase that you refer to was actually written when I was much younger and I had a very deterministic, yet romantic approach towards things. Even though my visual work had a loose conceptual axis to refer to, it has also been very formalistic and relatively rough. Things are more structured with my music. Given the fact that I now work in a much more complex manner and there are more specific elements that I employ, then I would say that I don’t just ”express myself ”anymore. Despite that, I work fast, meaning that I can take fast decisions especially with projects that I undertake all by myself such as The Hydra and Jay Glass Dubs. Since these are projects that have the live processing very apparent in their creation, going back and re-evaluating is not a thing that I often do. With my singer-songwriter project KU it’s much more different. I am not a trained musician so I need good musicians to play and give input in what I compose. So I delegate the work more, which leads to often revisiting and re-approaching decisions that seemed final at first.

To answer  your question, I would have to say it all depends on the state of mind, my work is very idiosyncratic and this is something I would like to hopefully maintain.