Artist Interview. December 2, 2021.
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.
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.
Formation of 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.
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.
Photography by Young Ha Kim
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.
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 wind chimes 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.