super happy to be included in the October ’17 edition of Marc Masters’ great HiBias column for Bandcamp, talking about heavy objects, living with music, being a family…
full text below:
As fraufraulein, the New York-based duo of Anne Guthrie and Billy Gomberg make music that feels telepathic, as if their minds merge into one whenever tape is rolling. “We have developed the ability to fall into an almost-trance within a few minutes of playing together,” says Guthrie, “sometimes slowing to the point of almost stopping completely.” “We decided on a ‘band name’ because we didn’t feel that what we were doing was really two musicians doing separate things together,” adds Gomberg, “but more like two musicians working on the same thing.”
One obvious way to explain the duo’s creative synergy is the fact that Guthrie and Gomberg are married. “We make very personal music, because this work is something we have loved to do together,” insists Gomberg. But even more importantly, each has made a wealth of fascinating solo music, developing individual sonic languages that are well-suited for dialogue. “Sometimes we suck at talking, as a lot of people do,” Guthrie admits. “Often playing music together will resolve something that talking cannot.”
On their new tape, heavy objects, fraufraulein both resolve and provoke, using musical and abstract sounds to create something between the concrete textures of field recording and the tightrope thrill of spontaneous composition. “We both enjoy the tension or friction between material that is more apparently musical and that which is not,” says Gomberg, who plays bass guitar and electronics while Guthrie works with French horn and “objects.”
“I’m interested in a recording or performance that has dimension, like a sculpture,” Gomberg continues. “Or plays with the appearance of dimension, like a photograph.” That’s a good way to describe both of heavy objects’ sidelong pieces, which use small, tactile sounds—crashes, bumps, even fireworks outside the couple’s window—to create a three-dimensional environment. These detailed aural events are especially striking in “one of us always tells the truth,” whose title refers in part to the folkloric riddle popularized in the ‘80s film Labyrinth.
Fraufraulein’s small sounds were inspired in part by a recent addition: Guthrie and Gomberg’s son Jasper, who arrived last year before they began work on heavy objects. “Since Jasper was born, we haven’t been out in the world as much, and have spent a lot of time getting very familiar with our domestic space, and wanted to focus on the small sounds that have been marking our days,” explains Guthrie. “A month or so before we did these recordings, we played in Richard Kamerman’s 18-hour piece and brought Jasper along. Watching him try to understand what was going on and seeing adults interact with sound-making objects in a very similar (although much quieter!) way made me want to get back to that here—find the very basic palette of an unfamiliar, simple instrument and tease out all the permutations.”
Family played a role in Guthrie and Gomberg’s individual paths to music, too, but in different ways. Guthrie’s grandfather was a serious pianist, and her parents played and sang music around the house as she grew up. She took piano and French horn lessons as a kid, eventually acquiring a degree in composition, then delving into improv during a semester in London (where she ended up in a workshop run by AMM legend Eddie Prévost). Gomberg, on the other hand, has no musicians in his extended family. As an adolescent addicted to MTV’s 120 Minutes, he bought a bass and took lessons, forming what he calls a “gothy band” in high school. Since then, much like Guthrie, he’s carved out his own path through many diverse musical scenarios and collaborations.
At the moment, the only obstacle for Guthrie and Gomberg’s own collaboration is finding the time to pursue it. “The past year-plus has been a reset, a constant beginning,” says Gomberg. “The quickened pulse of participating in the world here has quieted, and I’m OK if today I miss it…maybe I’ll pick up on it tomorrow. Music is something that has been very good to me. I trust it with me.”