Kolapse X: The Omara Remixes

On Christmas day 2016 I gave away the stem files for my piece, Omara, as a present for subscribers of my newsletter. Within four days, four people sent me remixes of the track. As the tenth and final entry in this series of posts celebrating the Kolapse remixes and remixers, I’d like to present to you four reworked versions of Omara.

Cha Blasco – Omara (Cha Blasco Remix)

Ken McByrd – 5T3M 001

midKnight muse – Omara’s Darkside [midKnight Muse mix]

Tony Simms – Omara Square

And with this we complete the Kolapse project – almost two years after kick-off and six months after the album release. Many thanks to all twenty-two people involved: Abboud Hashem, Alexander Dowerk, Arne Bense, Bernhard Wöstheinrich, Cha Blasco, Chris Herb, Christian Grothe, Cedric Theys, Erik Emil Eskildsen, Guy Birkin, Henri de Saussure, Juan Dahmen, Kathy Melaas, Ken McByrd, Markus Reuter, Pete Leuenberger, Ritxi Ostáriz, Roger Stucki, Tamara Lyn, Todd Madson, Tony Simms and Will Cruttenden.

And thank you for listening and reading. On to the next thing.

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Kolapse Interview VIII: Erik Emil Eskildsen feat. Stormtrap Asifeh

This is interview number eight in the Kolapse Interviews series, where Kolapse remixers are interviewed by fellow musicians and music afficionados. In this second to last installment, Minnesota-based experimental guitarist Todd Madson, aka Aliensporebomb, talks to Erik Emil Eskildsen and Stormtrap Asifeh.

Erik, what made you choose Polyglot as a piece to remix?

EEE: There were really only two simple reasons for this. First I asked Tobias which hadn’t been chosen yet, of the pieces he had made available for the remixes, and Polyglot was the one. Second, I liked that I could do the „lol“ wordplay with the title, hence naming my remix Plolyglol.

What was your process for remixing the tune?
EEE: I started out having some difficulties with how to do it. I was trying lots of things, looking for something. Eventually I decided to use the original piece and structure as a base layer throughout my entire remix.

The original has a very flowing rhythmic feel to it, but I chose to make my remix as much of an opposite of that as possible, so I quantized it to a fixed and very squared grid. The next step was to send all the original stems through my Boss SY-300 guitar synthesizer, creating new synth voices which were somewhat gimmicky and ridiculous. There was a point where I had these chicken-like sounds all over the place, and some of them did actually make their way into the final version. I then proceeded to program a more straight and grooving beat, playing around the original bass line (now fattened up and quantized). At that point I knew that something was still missing, and that’s when I asked my friend Abboud Hashem, aka MC Stormtrap Asifeh, if he was up for putting some vocals on the remix.

It was when I got the vocal tracks, and added them to my arrangement that it all started to take the shape. I applied a triangular form, from less at the beginning to much more at end of the piece, to the way I processed and layered the vocal tracks, letting it become more and more dense throughout the piece. This then became the overall approach to how I finalized the dynamic structure of my remix.

Other than some reverb, compression, and equalizing, I only used external guitar effects to process the tracks. On the vocals I used two pedals from Red Panda, the Particle and the Raster delays. I also used another Red Panda pedal, the Bitmap Bitcrusher, an Eventide Timefactor, and as mentioned earlier the Boss SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer.

You normally are known as a touch guitarist and this is an earthier, groovier, more direct and heavier piece than the original it came from. Any commentary on where your “usual” musical work fits here?

EEE: That’s not entirely true. Yes, I am predominantly known for my guitar work, solo or with my band The Friendly Guitar Trio, but I do consider myself a composer first and a guitarist second. I have a lot of much less guitar centric works that unfortunately still haven’t seen the light of day. An exception would be Ambidextrous Sun, my album with Bernhard Wöstheinrich (on which Tobias also appears). If you listen to that, you’ll hear that it’s very rhythmical and not very focused on guitar at all. What most don’t really know, is that I programmed all the rhythms on that album using Bernhard’s sounds, and that the pieces are more or less my re-compositions of the original improvisations we had played together.

I approached this remix as more of a new composition, rather than just a remix. I did this by using very similar compositional techniques to those that I frequently use; taking something pre-existing as a basis for a piece, and expanding that in multiple directions. That pre-existing material can be anything from a recording of an improvisation to maybe a chord sequence that fascinates me, I will then take that and analyze it, transform it, and extract new elements. In this case the pre-existing material was Tobias’ piece.

How did Abboud become involved in the remix and what direction did you give him? Or did you give him free reign?

EEE: I had actually been wanting to do some sort of collaboration with Abboud for a while, just hadn’t found the right material for it. The Plolyglol remix became the perfect starting point for this, and Abboud and I are currently talking about doing a full length collaboration album in the future. When I asked him to collaborate with me on this remix, I wanted to let him be in charge of his own output. I knew he was going to come up with something great.

The initial vocal tracks he supplied me with didn’t feel like they were long enough. I wanted to have his vocals go through the whole piece, so I had to come up with an interesting way to deal with that. His original vocal tracks are there up until around 02:12, after that I start generating new vocals. I actually did this in a very simple way: I cut up the original vocal tracks into 33 chunks that felt like they made musical sense. I then used a random number order generator to rearrange those chunks and proceeded to place them along the timeline in that new order.

Abboud, could you elaborate on the themes you chose for the lyrics?

AH: The verse I wrote for the polyglot remix mainly talks about a person attempting to escape the harsh reality many of us are experiencing. It is about how such an escape seems hopeless in the face of a powerful and controlling system, when even attempting to think outside the given rules will have fatal consequences. So you can say these lyrics are sort of a dark look at the state of the world today, and how the near future seems very orwellian. Here are the lyrics:

Something is wrong…
Everyone seems under pressure
You either play along
Or you get caught, game over

What am I searching for?
Why am I even searching?
Let whatever happens happen
Like a river I keep flowing, regardless of the circumstances

Wherever he looked there were fences
He was the first, he raced and managed to beat everyone
And as soon as he reached the top
A bullet reached him

Start over from scratch
Stand in line and fill in your application

I’m looking for a soul inside the machine
I still can’t find, hand me some lenses
Time is up, I can hear the gunshots

The immunity is active
Feelings have been frozen
Another one joined the army

Today, life without electricity – unimaginable
I hide my information, I erase my posts
The more buildings there are,
The less words I have

This is a state of confusion.
This is a state of illusion.
This is a state of me trying to pretend everything’s okay.

Download Kolapse for free, make sure to listen to Erik’s music on Bandcamp, Stormtrap Asifeh’s music on soundcloud, and sign up for the a100ql newsletter where I share news, thoughts, essays and materials related to the blog once or twice per month.

Kolapse Interview VII: Chris Herb

You are reading the seventh in a series of interviews with the contributors to Kolapse, a new album of remixes of tracks from my 2013 solo album, Kola. In this installment, Cha Blasco, a musician and composer from Spain but now living in Sweden, talks to Berlin-based producer Chris Herb. If you’ve followed the series you’ll have noticed that Chris was also featured in Kolapse Interview IV as one half of Drescher und Wemmser.

Photography (c) Valquire Veljkovic

I think I’ve known about Chris Herb since 2012-2013 when his debut solo album Death To False Techno came out. He has been working and collaborating with other musicians, artists and producers like Markus Reuter, Lee Fletcher, Adrian Benavides, and Tobias Reber just to name a few, whose works and careers has been pretty inspiring to me as well. That’s how I found him.

Actually Adrian Benavides and Chris, along with Alexander Dowerk, his duo partner in the techno project Drescher und Wemmser, have been pretty involved in my last record Urania: Adrian as producer and performer among many others, and Drescher und Wemmser producing remixes for the songs Broken Toys and New Playlist. I guess that’s why Tobias asked me to interview Chris about his feature on the awesome Kolapse remix album. I gladly accepted the challenge, so here is my conversation with Chris.

In all your productions, as I understand it, polyrhythms are a big part of your touch and identity. Which process do you follow when you apply them to your remixes? Do you have some routine?

When working with Drescher und Wemmser, I often choose a time signature beforehand, usually something which divides into several cycles. 15/4 for example divides into 5 and 3, so we can have two complete rhythmic cycles in one measure. We usually compose with longer measures because it gives us a larger playground and a good overview over multiple cycles, thus providing more space for tension and variations. We are very much influenced by Swiss minimal artists such as Don Li, Nik Bärtsch, Ania Losinger and the Swedish metal group Meshuggah, who are pioneers in next level composition techniques utilizing polyrhythms.

You talk about your influences from minimal, jazz and metal artists when it comes to time signature structures, but what about your sound production choices? Are there some patterns you follow? And in the case of your remix for Tobias, what made you to follow this way?

For sound production I follow a technique I’ve learned from Markus Reuter after visiting him in his studio a couple of times. What we do is we re-amp almost all signals through guitar FX gear and really destroy the signal to accentuate one specific aspect of it. Then I mix it with the original signal up to the point where it is almost inaudible. But when you do that a couple of times, it can really bring your signal to life by creating space and depth, especially when working with the audio output of software synthesizers. I think it might be similar to what exciters do, but in a multi-dimensional way. In the case of our remix, we did that in an even more destructive way, resulting in the very distorted bass synth.

Interesting – I’ll take notes for myself too! It seems a nice way to converge between analogue and digital worlds. Now that you mention Markus’ studio, I see that not only are you a composer, musician and producer and I guess sound engineer – you’re pretty much into mixing and mastering engineering also, and you’re doing so good there. How you feel about yourself in these roles?

I do compose and play the touch guitar but I totally see my strengths in producing, sound design and mixing. When I work on an idea or composition, I try to understand its core intention and express it in the way I shape the sound. To me, a composition is really just a sketch (maybe a very detailed one) and in order to bring it to life, I have to finish the painting. I don’t see myself as much of a mastering engineer though as I mostly do pre-masters. I try to let other people do the finishing touch.

Until now, we’ve been talking about things you did and the process, but what about the future? Is there some new Chris Herb music coming along?

No, I’m not actively working on new solo material. I’m very happy to be able to express myself through my work with Drescher und Wemmser. So right now we’re working on our upcoming EP ‘Hausschrank’ and on the live realization of a 60 minute composition called ‘Ultraschrank’. Furthermore I’m working on a live set with my friend Sanni, a Berlin-based DJ, producer and singer/songwriter. So my plan is to be less of an internet musician and to be more on the stage again. 🙂

That sounds exciting! I’m personally looking forward to seeing you live someday, and maybe even share stage together. Thank you for your time Chris, it has been a pleasure to learn more about you.

Thank you! First time being interviewed on my own. Hope I could give some insight

Also the time first I interviewed anyone, haha. Sure you did. Thanks again.

Download Kolapse for freemake sure to listen to Chris’ music on Bandcamp and sign up for the a100ql newsletter where I share news, thoughts, essays and materials related to the blog once or twice per month.

Kolapse Interview VI: Ritxi Ostáriz

This is the sixth installment in a series of interviews with the Kolapse remixers. Cedric Theys, who already contributed an interview with Lärmheim to the project, talks to graphic designer Ritxi Ostáriz.

How did Kola’s artwork come about? Was it based on the music or did it exist before the music?

It was made originally for the album. In that time I worked mainly in black and white and with geometric shapes. I was starting to get bored with my own style. It was so great that Tobias asked me for something with an “ethnic or tropical” feel (I don’t know if these were the actual terms) [Edit Tobias: I think “tropical” was indeed a word I used.]. So, probably for the first time, I decided to try something more organic, fewer angles and circles.

What techniques did you use? Is it more of a digital creation or does it come from drawing or photography?

It combines both. I won’t reveal the whole recipe of the artboard but I can say it all started with the photography of a pineapple. I think it’s the first time I reveal this secret!

You have a very unique style for album artwork. Where do you get your inspiration from?

I honestly don’t think I have a specific style, though I have been said that many times. If you take a look at my whole portfolio of designs, you will find very different approaches. It would be hard for me to talk about where I get my inspiration from as there is no one single way of working. Every project has its own methodology.

You’ve worked extensively with Markus Reuter and with the Iapetus family. Are there other record labels and/or artists you work with a lot too?

Markus has been a key figure in my design career and he has trusted me and my skills many times. He is for sure the client I have worked on the most projects with. But there is also Vegard Tveitan ‘Ihsahn’ and Heidi Solberg Tveitan, from Mnemosyne Productions, who have commissioned me for many of their projects. In fact, they were my first client in the music scene. I am so proud and grateful for having had the chance to work for them.

What other design and creative work do you do?

Music design has only been one of my specializations. I have also worked as a motion graphic artist and as editorial designer for books and magazines. In the last five years I have worked full time for the brand consulting firm Saffron Consultants and I am currently a Senior Visual Designer at Fjord, a Service Design consulting company.

What are some of the things you are focusing on right now that you’ve never done before?

Good question! I am currently directing, writing and recording a weekly radio podcast about Anthropology, Ethnography and the History of Human Beliefs. I am having a lot of fun and having the chance to meet and interview a lot of great scholars, writers, journalists…

Download Kolapse for free, make sure to browse Ritxi’s online portfolio at ritxiostariz.com, and sign up for the a100ql newsletter where I share news, thoughts, essays and materials related to the blog once or twice per month.

Kolapse Interview V: Guy Birkin

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with the Kolapse remixers. Will Cruttenden, who releases his music as Spingere, interviews fellow Englishman Guy Birkin about his Piñata remix.

How did you first make contact with Tobias?

Our first contact was probably through SoundCloud and our participation in the Disquiet Junto. ‘Backup Aura’ was one of my favourite albums in 2011, so Tobias was certainly on my radar at that time but I think we only started corresponding later on. We share interests and follow similar paths.

Why did you choose that particular track over the others?

Structurally Piñata was more suited to achieve the intended aim with this remix: to change the track temporally rather than sonically – that is, to deconstruct it and re-arrange on a new time base. One of the things I like is its irregular beat. Also, I love the sound of that kick drum. Because this track is mostly made of percussive sounds, it makes it easier to chop up using transient-detection algorithms, which is how I did it. Using this method the kick drum stem was cut up into 1,543 pieces. I applied the same process to two other parts, the high and low metallic clang sounds, cut into around 900 and 1,400 pieces. Before these fragments of sound were aligned on a new tempo grid, I sorted them into different sequences based on analysis using measures of information content. This is something developed from my research on complexity, and I wanted to use this approach for this remix. So it was the characteristics of that kick and those clang sounds in Piñata that determined my choice of track because they allowed me to use this method.

Tell me more about your research on complexity. How does it apply to fields outside of music?

Well, this research started outside of music, because it stems from my PhD which investigated visual complexity and from my visual art practice which uses scientific or technical methods (e.g. cellular automata, statistical analysis) to make generative artwork. This research turned that process around, using this approach to study how complexity in visual art is perceived. The central research question was about the relationship between visual complexity and aesthetic value. Information theory and algorithmic complexity theory provided the theoretical support for using data compression algorithms as a way of measuring complexity. The underlying theory of this measure, called ‘minimum description length’, is that the complexity of an object can be measured in terms of how much information it contains. A digital image file is a ‘description’ of an image, and data compression algorithms reduce it close to the minimum, and so the amount of information that remains after compression is a measure of its complexity. Evidence from experimental psychology shows a correlation between this measure and subjectively perceived complexity (i.e. complexity ratings of images by test participants). My research corroborated the finding and extended the tests to include more complex images. I also found evidence that the correlation breaks down with random images, because the compression method measures those as being the most complex, whereas we tend to perceive randomness as being quite simple. With this knowledge of the relationship between data compression and perception in the visual domain, we can ask whether a similar correlation might be found in the auditory domain, between digital audio data compression and the perceived complexity of music. That question is driving my current research and my sonic art practice.

How has this method developed during the making of your own music?

The method of research hasn’t changed much – it’s still an empirical investigation, except now I’m working independently, not in academia. But as a method for music-making, it’s always developing, because the research opens up new ways of making, shaping and arranging sounds. I use variations on the original method quite a lot – measuring complexity based on information content and data compression, but it’s is also constantly being refined. More recently, I’ve started using methods developed from network analysis and graph theory. These offer a new way to approach the question of complexity in music, for both analytical and generative purposes. It’s a collaboration with Valdis Krebs, whose research mapped the network of terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks, amongst other things. Valdis mapped the network of notes in Fur Alina by Arvo Pärt, and I wrote a program that uses that network to generate similar patterns. The network maps adjacent notes (two notes are connected if one follows the other) and the program plays successive notes by moving along the connections between them. I’ve now written a program that analyses any MIDI file, maps its network of notes, and generates a new piece based on that network. But at the moment I’ve only got it working on pitch, not yet timing.

How did you know that your remix was finished?

With this remix the aim was to focus on changes in timing – specifically, to re-arrange the rhythmic elements of Piñata on a different tempo, and to use some measure of complexity to re-order those elements. In the end, I also changed the sounds quite a bit too, but I knew most of the work was done when I’d achieved the main technical steps involved in applying that information-based measure of complexity. This included cutting the stems, analysing the pieces, re-arranging them on a new tempo, and editing those placements to disrupt or create patterns. Once that main aim is achieved, then there’s the process of making decisions that are aesthetic rather than technical, and making adjustments that are tonal/timbral rather than structural. It’s at this second stage that it’s hard to know when to stop. Even though most of the technical work is done, it’s easy to spend much longer here, changing instruments, adding effects and tweaking parameters.

Were you tempted to continue or even remix the remix?

Prior to mastering, I declined the opportunity to re-work this remix, but given the chance again, I’d probably make it shorter. However, I’ve extended these methods from this remix and applied them to work that I’ve made subsequently. I’ve also used completely different methods to explore some of the same sonic characteristics that this method produced. Specifically, the perceptual transition between pitch and rhythm that results from changing the rate at which sounds are played. The exploration of these perceptual thresholds is one theme that runs through my practice. It’s part of the creative approach to the research question I described earlier, because it’s a way of exploring the relationship between physical properties, information and perception that are at work in the art of music.

Download Kolapse for free,  find Guy’s other music on his website and sign up for the a100ql newsletter where I share news, thoughts, essays and materials related to the blog once or twice per month.

Kolapse Interview IV: Drescher und Wemmser

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with the Kolapse remixers. Kathy Melaas, a generous longtime listener very familiar with my music,  interviews German techno duo Drescher und Wemmser‘s Chris Herb and Alex Dowerk.

Photography (c) Valquire Veljkovic

Simply stated, I love music. I have absolutely no music education, zero talent at playing or singing, and listen solely as a fan, a music lover, a junkie. I listen not from a technical standpoint but from an emotional, visceral and cerebral place.

When Tobias Reber (composer, musician, performance artist, teacher – electronic, electroacoustic and algorithmic composition, and improvisation) invited me (music superfan girl, groupie, general geeky dork) if I’d be interested in interviewing some musicians regarding their use of his pieces from his Kola release, I said yes in a nanosecond. Then the panic set in. How in the world was I going to do this and not sound like a complete buffoon? The answer? The only way I could: honestly yet informally, driven from the heart, with my passion for the art form as my guide.

What follows below is the email conversation I had recently with Alexander Paul “Drescher” Dowerk and Christopher Jan “Wemmser” Herb, who record as Drescher und Wemmser.

Kathy: Greetings, gentlemen! Tobias asked me to listen to Schmierfett where you used samples from Maniok which is on his release, Kola. After listening to the two pieces back to back on repeat over the course of nearly two weeks, to be quite honest, I have absolutely no idea what segment of Maniok you may have sampled. Can you tell me about Schmierfett and Tobias’ influence upon it?

Chris: We used 2 samples from Maniok: The Gong/Taiko hit with added delay and the “Melody” at 1:30 reversed and processed. We used the original tempo (90bpm) but the kick is in quarter note triplets so it appears to be much faster (120bpm).

As for composition we used a pyramid shaped song structure so the middle of the song is the most intense, the beginning and end are more relaxed. We feel that this structural approach fits Tobias’ algorithmic composition style and it will work on the dance floor.

Kathy: Thank you for the explanation! You know that I listen not with a trained ear but with my head and heart. From Tobias’ Maniok, I get a feeling of anticipation, and anxiousness. A racing, stumbling heartbeat. Drumming of fingers on a table, or huge raindrops on a bucket ahead of a cloudburst storm. Unpredictable, but not. I appreciate the unexpected turns that Tobias’ Maniok takes. How it engages the brain, searching for a pattern, the mathematical formula. Schmierfett, on the other hand… POW! When the beat kicks in on your songs, it grabs hold and doesn’t relent. Visceral muscle memory. Rebar, sheet metal and welding goggles, baby! Intensity. Non-stop.  ZAP! Jacob’s ladder kajillion gigawatt jolt straight up the spine!    

Alex: Thanks a lot! We are indeed interested in composing songs and creating sounds that grab you from the first second or any other moment you encounter the song. Drescher und Wemmser is all about intense energy and brutal power. We get inspired by hearing massive machines, broken signals, misheard music and alien sounds. I guess it’s what you get if you put 2 prog metal guys in charge of creating electronic music.

What was it about Tobias’ Maniok that grabbed your attention? How did you take that and incorporate it into your own work?

Chris: We don’t necessarily take our favorite songs as a base, but a song that is a good source for samples. So we often times take a short phrase and start to play around with it: change tempo, pitch and reverse it until something interesting forms.

Alex: For me I thought that the erratic rhythm of the main “melody” gives us a good start to create something new. We soon moved into a different direction, but the initial spark was still important.

Alex, in another different direction, I know you and Tobias are Blast Unicorn together. Love the quirk and the humor there. Will there be more?

Yes, there will more Blast Unicorn in the future, but for when, I really can’t tell. In fact we already started with some ideas in 2015 and did plan to do an EP, but other projects received a higher priority. Also, our debut album Van Halo was a huge effort and pushed the limit in every regard. It’s truly boundary breaking music and requires a certain mindset. Currently I’m more interested in writing strong catchy songs in the genres of roughly EDM and Prog Metal than doing avant-garde music. But the unicorn never sleeps and ancient texts tell of its glorious return.

Fantastic news! What other projects have you collaborated on? What it is like working with Tobias?  

I love working with Tobias. We have been friends for more than ten years and share a lot of influences and favorites. Tobias has often been my connection to the academic world of music, in particular contemporary classical music. We also did a lot Touch Guitar practice and research together, both in private and the Touch Guitar Circle with Markus Reuter and Erik Emil Eskildsen.

Tobias often surprises me with a completely new perspective on sounds or compositional ideas. Things that seem clear for me where they should go suddenly get a turn and break into completely new ground. There is strong sense of trust in our collaboration. The trust that regardless of what we do, it will have a high quality. Whether it’s tightly composed pieces (Blast Unicorn) or completely free improvised music (Untight, together with Bernhard Wöstheinrich).

You can hear us both playing together on the following records, with Blast Unicorn being the purest of a Reber/Dowerk collaboration: Blast Unicorn’s Van Halo, Untight – Live at Theaterkapelle, and Troy Jones’ New Peace.

Chris? What have you done with Tobias? Impressions?

Tobias has mainly been my touch guitar and (algorithmic) composition teacher, but apart from the stuff he has taught me, I recently realized how much Kola influenced me how I think about rhythm and it inspired me to really get into percussion synthesis.

Can you tell me a bit about how the two of you, Chris and Alex, work together? How you create?

It’s great to work with Chris. He’s a fantastic sound engineer and we almost always share the same taste in music and things. We developed such an efficient work flow, that we can create something top notch sounding in a very short amount of time. Mostly we find or create a word for a song title and then discuss what haptical and auditive qualities that word has. This both inspires us and creates some restrictions, in which we can start to work.

I would say we work 75/25 together and remotely. When we are in the studio together, we have a very democratic way of working. When someone has an idea of how to progress in a piece, he takes over control of Ableton Live and just starts to compose or create sounds while the other one is commenting or just chilling on the couch, listening. This goes on for a while, until the other one feels inspired or has new ideas. Then we switch places, enabling the former “active” member to relax and get a new perspective on the song. We never look back on older versions of song, we just move forward. We know it will be great.

Thank you both for sharing your thoughts on all of this, and thank you for your music! I look forward to hearing more from all your collaborations.  

Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.



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Yesterday I released Kolapse, an album with remixes of pieces from my 2013 solo album, Kola. It’s free for now, so please get a copy and tell all your polyrhythm-loving friends!


The remixers are, in order of appearance: Drescher und Wemmser (D), Guy Birkin (UK), Lärmheim (CH), Kryshe (D), The Redundant Rocker (D), Erik Emil Eskildsen feat. Stormtrap Asifeh (DK/A/PSE), Chris Herb (D) and Mathon (CH). The album was mastered by Markus Reuter and Ritxi Ostáriz again created the cover art.

We have some interesting things lined up to complement the album release over the coming months but for now, have a listen and enjoy!

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