Today we’re listening to Spirituals, an electronic music project by Jackson, Mississippi-based producer Tyler Tadlock. He records copious voice memos, and then takes a trial-and-error approach to assembling them with digital instruments and guitar. His new album, Innards, came out in October. It’s a tender collection of tracks made over the past decade or so, many of which are “beatless dance music” as he put it on Dublab. We’re also playing his 2020 record, Sounds of Healing in Isolation, which has a more minimalist, rippling sound. An interview with Spirituals follows the streaming links.
Your music incorporates a wide range of instruments. How do you gather the raw sonic materials?
I record anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere. I use the voice memos app a lot to record things I hear out in the world, like when I have an idea on the guitar or the wind chimes in my yard. I also record improvised music with friends and find samples from those to play around with on the computer. Most of the electronic sounding things come from VSTs and instruments in Ableton. I really try to think about sounds and their relationship to one another regardless of where they come from. Like how the purely digital FM synth in Ableton pairs well with my acoustic guitar that I recorded with my phone. Little things like that.
Your approach to music making is very organic, almost taoist. Tell us how you arrived at this intellectual approach to music as a "byproduct of one's life" as you put it.
Music theory was never my forte and I don’t really approach it from that place. I just try to piece together patches of sounds into a coherent composition that reminds me of something or makes me feel something. Just using whatever is around me. Almost like quilting. There’s something very wise and timeless about folk art that I admire. As opposed to popular music where people are trying to out-perform each other all the time. Folk art is just people doing what they do where they do it and using what’s around them–evidence of living.
I think I first came across this comparison when I was reading a book by improviser and guitarist Davey Williams. He called free improvisational music “eccentric folk music.” This makes a lot of sense to me in my own work.
It’s rejuvenating to use art as therapy for things that are happening in life. Your life is uniquely yours. We’ve all experienced an insane amount of stress in the information/overstimulation age. For me art is just the marks we make while going through life and experiencing shit. It’s hard to go through life without some type of creative response to all of the noise. Sometimes you just need to sit down and make a quilt.
What music were you listening to while making Innards?
Innards is really a collection of stuff made over a pretty long stretch of time. I think the earliest track “Maybe In Our Minds” was made in 2016 when I was house sitting in New Orleans. At that time I was listening a lot to Rob Mazurek’s Alternate Moon Cycles, pretty much on repeat. I also remember being impressed with Tyondai Braxton’s live performance at a music festival I went to that year. The track “Innards” was sort of inspired by Barker’s Utility album, which was the first time I had really paid attention to the idea of making dance music without drums or beats. Also Photay’s An Offering with Carlos Niño is so beautiful, and I listened to that when I was sorting out the playlist of Innards. Floating Points, Grouper, Gillian Welch, Hammock, Terry Riley, Four Tet, Green-House, Luke Stewart & Jarvis Earnshaw, and Curlew to name a few more.
What music inspires you the most these days?
The natural sounds of my home in Jackson Mississippi inspire me a great deal. I live next to a train yard that makes the most gorgeous ambient music day and night.
I’m also very inspired by playing free improvisational music, or spontaneous composition. There’s a group of improvisers I meet and play with regularly in Jackson: Evan Gallagher, Bruce Golden, George Cartwright, Chris Alford, Beth Ann Jones, plus or minus a few, and we play and record every chance we get. Improvisation keeps me thinking in new ways. It’s a great way to explore an instrument or discover a sound. It’s a great way to listen. The dissonance and chaos is also the perfect counterpoint to the stillness of ambient music for me.
I’ve recently discovered the work of Matthew Sage. It’s kinda loose, fluid but still tonally harmonious. He has a quartet called Fuubutsushi that's really great. Lake Mary is also in that quartet and makes wonderful stuff too. I also have been listening a lot to the label Tasty Morsels. There’s a very candid and almost underproduced sound that I find refreshing. The album Playing Piano for Dad by H Hunt is really beautiful.
Name an underrated musician from the past 50 years.
George Cartwright, who played on my track “Seventies.” I met him through the free improv music world. He founded a great band called Curlew back in the late 70s early 80s. I wasn’t hip to a lot of his stuff until we played together but he's a wonderful improviser/saxophonist/friend and Curlew was a vastly underrated band. Bruce Golden played with Curlew on a few records too.
What non-musician artists are you into at the moment?
Alexis McGrigg is one of my favorite artists at the moment. Her work explores deeply personal, spiritual, metaphysical perspectives on her own identity growing up in Mississippi. She paints beautifully abstracted portraits of spiritual entities, what feels like the essence of an ancestor or distant relative. Her work feels extremely honest and genuine and I really like that about it.
I’ve also recently circled back to Miró and the surrealists and thinking about the role that sleep and hypnagogia plays in the creative process. I play a lot with that when making my own music or when listening back to mixes I’m working on.
What are you working on next?
Likely another release in the next year. Aside from Spirituals stuff I am sorting through hard drives of free improv sessions I’ve been a part of over the last several years that I would love to see the light of day. I may put together a compilation or sampler of that stuff soon just to get it out. I also worked with Alexis McGrigg doing sound on a video art project so that will hopefully be on display soon, so be sure to follow her work.
Also, I’d like to shout out Robby Piantanida (generalusage.com) for all of the crazy beautiful videos coming out with Innards. I think we have a video for every track on the album, so be on the lookout for those in the coming months. You can see them all on my YouTube channel.