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Troth

December 2, 2021

Artist Interview

Troth is Awabakal/Newcastle based ambient, experimental, synth pop duo Amelia Besseny and Cooper Bowman (Altered States Tapes). "Together they fashion ethereal environs from vocals, electronics, zither, tape loops and sampled percussion & piano." - Essential Minerals.

Since 2019, they've released music through Altered States Tapes (Newcastle), Essential Minerals (Bris), Moontown Records (Syd), Not Not Fun (LA) and their most recent album Oak Corridor (2021) was released by Knekelhuis (Amsterdam). They've been prolific since their beginnings, with 3 full length LPs and a splay of singles and EPs to date already.

They've also had several gallery sound installations including "Nothing Still In The Stone Garden" at Newcastle Gallery in 2019, quoted as the first performance from the duo.

Creative beginnings

Amelia: "I began my interest in music and art as a young kid. I was really into drawing and recording music off the radio. I studied music for quite some time, training as a classical singer. I always loved a wide range of genres though, but I was late to the game in writing my own music."

Cooper: "My dad is an extremely talented visual artist and played in punk bands in Newcastle in the 80’s. I was brought up by my mum and she would always be listening to good tunes; she definitely fostered an appreciation of music in me. Being an introverted fringe-dweller from a young age, music gave me an imaginative world to lose myself in and pull apart the nuances of.

I only really started making noise around eleven years ago, after I moved to Melbourne from Newcastle. I've been fortunate enough to have made friends and collaborated with some of the artists I respect most during that time. It’s really helped shape my worldview and general approach for the better."

Troth

Amelia: "Once I finally struck up the courage to write some songs and put some online, Cooper got in contact about doing a show. I was surprised and stoked. I wasn’t sure if what I was trying to do in my music would come across, but meeting Cooper gave me confidence to keep going with it.

Early on when we met, we decided to go out on some field recording missions. The first one we did was in the Fernleigh tunnel in Newcastle. From there we soon decided to try and make some music including the recordings and other ideas we’d discussed."

Cooper: "When I moved back to Newcastle after ten years in Melbourne, I was intent on getting some good gigs happening. After trawling through every single Bandcamp and Soundcloud in Newcastle, I found only one active project that sounded great - Amelia’s solo work as Impatiens.

There are legitimately a half-dozen people interested in the same kind of music as us in this town and I felt really lucky to have encountered someone who was not only extremely talented, but had an interest in experimenting with new sounds/ideas. On one of the first times collaborating we went to a former railway tunnel and recorded ourselves playing battery-powered synths."

Song writing

Amelia: "Often, our pieces will begin with recording for samples, be that field recording or recording in our shed at home. We often think about different textures we could include on a piece and Cooper often has ideas for the titles, which kicks off the process.

During the process we do a fair bit together, but then also may record some layers on our own in response to what we’ve already assembled. We try and do everything ourselves or with friends. 

We get inspired by going out and playing in various places. Sometimes playing unfinished or new pieces, getting a response from an audience can help shape the rest of it. There is less improvisation than we use in other bands that we’re in, but we have recorded quite a few pieces in one sitting/one recording playing it live."

Cooper: "I’m fairly obsessive about creative endeavours, forever daydreaming when I have a spare minute at work or wherever. So a good deal of the songs start as ideas that I mentally map out. Normally there would be a title and a ‘feeling’ in mind and then thinking about what instruments/sounds are needed to get that across.

Once we have a basic backbone of something, maybe drum machine and synth or a drone or field recording, then the rest just usually naturally flows on, informed by what is already there. I guess you could say it's like a narrative in that sense, all of the necessary devices need to be there for it to be fully cohesive."

Field recording

Amelia: "I really like the process of field recording together. It merges our love of the outdoors and sound and also, I feel that you can’t hear a better composition than the soundscape of a beautiful natural environment. In this way, listening is a really important part of Troth, be it listening and responding to each other musically or listening to the world around us. 

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to capture a perfect sound out in field recordings and it’s like a little time capsule or kind of like Proust’s Madeleine moment. In those cases, it feels wrong to add anything or take anything away, but just nice to cradle it in a piece as is."

Cooper: "It comes back to respecting nature and giving it the time and appreciation it deserves. There’s a bit of me playing harp and a gong on the new LP, (not that it’s immediately discernible) something I never envisioned doing, due to my total lack of musical training. I just want it to be an ever-evolving process, free of the limitations associated with genre, current trends or what we allow ourselves to use in making sound."

Photography by Young Ha Kim

Themes of flux, chaos and beauty found in natural environments

Amelia: "Troth is one way in which I can artistically explore these themes. They are both terrifying and beautiful and often play on my mind. I think it’s so important to feel connected to your landscape as a part of nature - to remember that us humans are not the center of the universe, to respect all living things and try to tread lightly.

We often build pieces based around time spent in a place. We quite rarely mix our field recordings, but rather try and keep them together in their locations. Often a place will influence the whole shape of a piece, be it musical playgrounds in parks or wonderful windchimes we came across hanging on a veranda in Wollombi."

Cooper: "You can’t expect nature just to be a provider and to exist only for human benefit. It's the reason we exist and it should be respected accordingly. We spend a lot of time out in nature bushwalking, appreciating animals and plants. So much of what I see in the world that aggravates me occurs in blind ignorance to nature and I wouldn’t want to be complicit in that (not to say I’m perfect by any means).

Troth is one good vessel for showing our respect, not to mention more directly engaged activities like planting trees, donating to organisations doing the good work etc. Nature is one of the main wellsprings of inspiration we feed into the project. Also, as Amelia said elsewhere recently, the patterns and sounds found in nature are as powerful a muse as anything else. I respect its honesty."

Gear

Amelia: "The core of our setup is two samplers and reverb, but we have a few synths and instruments like an upright piano and chime bars and I use an old zither. We work in a DAW to edit/mix but generally we record without a computer and everything up to that point is usually analog and acoustic."

Cooper: "We are lucky to have a variety of tools out in our garden studio (shed) to play around with. I’m keen to incorporate whatever we can into the process for Troth. Obviously Amelia’s voice, and what she does with it, is amazing and adds something totally unique to the songs that I could never dream to offer."

Oak Corridor (2021) // Recent themes

Amelia: "We both decided we don’t want to repeat ourselves and just always apply the same formula for an album. Part of the new record came out of that I guess, but it’s also just been really fun to experiment with pop song forms, structurally and lyrically.

I think we’ve both become more adventurous with the project. There’s an eagerness to try out new ideas and experiment. The built environment has crept in a bit (through our own personal experiences), thinking on aspects of gentrification and hostility, as well as degradation of community. In saying this, I still approach these aspects with hope that things can change."

Cooper: "Even if it may seem like a stark departure to an observer, I really don’t see this recent record as being any different. The same intentions / feelings are captured in the songs as before, at least to us. I love Kate Bush and a lot of minimal-wave bands, like Lives Of Angels etc. When I was chucking tunes on in the car on a long-drive, I pointed out to Amelia how few really great synth-pop / minimal-wave records there are with exclusively female vocals.

There really aren’t that many I can think of, which is absurd. The other side of it is, we were originally much more experimental in what we were jamming together, but had we stayed like that without shifting it would have lost its vitality pretty quickly. I don’t think genre is important to Troth, instead it’s the dedication to listening to each other and allowing the music to change however is needed that is.

With Oak Corridor, I spent more time tweaking everything in garageband than I’ve ever done with any other project, which I really didn’t enjoy. It was a successful effort in removing the existing habit of just recording everything live with no overdubs. I’m really happy with how it came together, so it was worth the energy involved."

Beyond 2021

Amelia: "We have lots of projects in the works and a few recently finished things coming out. We both are part of Th Blisks with Yuta Matsumura, we’ve just finished our first album together. Individually, we both have music in the works too.

In Troth, we are working on some new songs with a bit of twisted folk inspiration. We’re looking forward to getting back to playing live in the coming month and are planning for the potential of a European tour."

Cooper: "Heaps. Like Amelia said, Th Blisks have an album that’ll be coming out early next year on Altered States Tapes. Just today Troth got invited to do a 7” for one of my favourite labels, Sweden’s I Dischi Del Barone. So we’ll make some songs for that soon and probably some other songs for another album eventually.

We’ll play a few shows around Oz whenever we can; we have plans to go up to Lismore and every time we’ve played in Brisbane has been really life-affirming. We’re also intending to play a couple of shows in the UK and Euro next year, kind of as a ‘honeymoon holiday tour’ more than anything, but I guess that depends on the global situation at the time.

There’s an LP of another duo I’m in called Tsap coming shortly. I’ve started making music myself again after a long period of inactivity, which is nice and weird. And I’m always active with releasing other people’s music that I think has Spirit thru my label Altered States Tapes whenever I have any spare time. I love how connected it keeps me with other people and allows me a small place in sharing art that I think has value and might otherwise slip under the radar. Hopefully we go on some cool bushwalks soon and see some places we haven’t seen before."

Links

Bandcamp

Oak Corridor (2021)

Altered States Tapes

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