Interview: Marbeya Sound, The Mental State of Going Elsewhere [MEX]

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I’m a firm believer that there are certain bands or genres that must be heard in specific contexts, environments, and moods. This is even more relevant when it comes to electronic dance music, where lyrics are scarce and you have nothing directing you toward meaning but your own brain. This is the kind of music that Mexico City duo Marbeya Sound has been quietly releasing for some time now: a brand of electronic music very much influenced by everything from krautrock, ’80s synth pop, and contemporary beats. Yet, their sound doesn’t end up being a pastiche of their influences, but an introspective journey about finding their place in the Mexico City scene and the world.

After a chance meeting in an Acapulco hotel in 2007, the duo, formed by Abraham Dichi and Alan Rabchinsky, honed their skills DJing clubs until they arrived to a sound and production method they both cherished: analog. Their love for organic instruments and analog synths-–Soviet-era and beyond—paved way for their first full-length album, Colonies, released this month on the indie label Four Planes Records. The album is a departure from their earlier sound, which was more dance-floor friendly. With Colonies, Marbeya Sound created a record best heard in transit, when you have little choice but to get absorbed into their world.

Apropos of their new release, I interviewed Alan and Abraham via Skype to ask them about the LP, their production process, and where they’ll go from here (a Colonies vinyl and a Mexico City release are in order). They also weighed in on the future of electronic music in Mexico, which, according to them, is pretty bright.

It’s been well documented in other media outlets that you both collect Soviet-era analog synthesizers, which makes for an interesting and different sound. Can you walk us through the process of composing a Marbeya Sound song?

Alan: There is a lot of experimentation during the music production process. We normally program a lot and we make a lot of decisions before recording. We choose the notes, chords, and we program that to the synths. Then we choose the timbre-–which is the specific sound of the synth—modulations, add voices and harmonics of this specific sound. When we’re happy with the sounds we go back to the digital audio works station, we record the audio and begin the post production process.

Abraham: Our production process could be very fast or very slow in order to find the right sound. It could be 10 minutes or it could be two days. Some tracks sit on the computer for a year. We let them rest for a little while, work on other tracks and then come back to them. I think the longest we’ve spent on one specific track is 30 days, working every one of those days. That one is the highlight on our album. It’s called “Your ears are hours” and it’s a 14-minute track.

Can you describe what listeners will find in your new record Colonies?

Alan: There is this review they made about the album that says that there are some passages during life that you’re working through, and I think this could be our interpretation of one of those passages. Kind of a meditational state, but this record is not so much ambient or downtempo. It’s more rock influenced, lots of layered Pink Floyd-style guitars, organic drums, and a lot of layered synths.

Abraham: As far as the sound production description, that would be it. A more philosophical manner of describing it would be a kind of transportation; a mental state of going elsewhere, not staying static.

What world do you want people to enter to when they’re listening to Colonies?

Abraham: I guess not this actual period; something else beside this period that we’re living. I would leave that description to the listener because that’s the intention, to let the listener go where they need to go. It’s where their ideal scenario would be. For us, where it took us was more into an outer space kind of dimension, something mixed with oceans and water. There’s not a fixed description for it. It could be interpreted in many ways.

Alan: Having in mind that this album has no vocals or anything, you go to wherever you want to go. There is this interview of John Cage, the sound theorist. He talks about silence and sound, and he says that when you hear music it seems like someone is trying to tell you something. But if you hear traffic, it seems more like the sound is acting, it reminds you of things. Colonies has like a bit of this continuous state, and it’s more about what the listener gets reminded [of] when he’s passing through.

What were your influences while composing the music and recording the album?

Alan: A lot of ’70s and ’80s music. We’re always influenced by synthesizer music.

Abraham: To name a few, there’s Brian Eno…

Alan: Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Vangelis…this krautrock sound. But we’ve added to this sound a new organic experience.

Would you guys rather have the listeners hear it on their headphones or speaker?

Abraham: Definitely headphones.

Alan: They can listen to them on the train.

Abraham: There are a lot of sceneries that happen during a train ride. You go fast through a lot of ecosystems, so I think Alan nailed it with the train.

How do you see your sound evolving in your next projects?

Abraham: That’s a question I’ve been asking myself right now. It always goes through an evolutionary process, but what comes next is still to be seen. Our influences come from the past-–’60s, ’70s, ’80s—but we’re also influenced by what’s playing now, what the sound is worldwide. We also follow the electronic music dance scene and the 4/4 beat. It’s a mixture that presents itself in what we produce.

Do you guys feel part of the Latin American electronic music scene or do you see yourselves on the outskirts of it?

Abraham: There’s a pretty significant scene for dance music here in Mexico. The people that are playing in clubs under their own monikers, we all know each other because we’re all fans of each other. That’s how we bond.

Alan: I would say we feel [like we’re] in the scene because a lot of friends are helping us and we’re helping them. We’re trying to get a community going, more than being studio musicians. Being in Mexico, we’re very open to how people are going to react to the record.

What do you think is the future of Mexican electronic dance music? Collectively, where do you guys think you’re headed?

Abraham: I think there’s more diversification. We all come from going to clubs when we were little, playing music, DJing. This is more dance-floor oriented. After playing and producing dance tracks, there comes a point when you want to start expanding, doing more experimentation, diversifying, and mixing genres. What I think we’re going to see in Mexico is a lot of experimentation and musicians expanding into new territory.

Colonies is available in all major digital stores. According to the band, the physical release will be delayed in order to find the funds to release a double vinyl.

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