Lauren Laverne, 6 Music Recommends: “Athens sextet Partials and ‘Fear of Silence’ from the new EP ‘Glossolalia’, which is out now on True Blue Records. They say, ‘the EP explores how humans are beginning to experience machine problems and machines are beginning to experience human problems’. Well, I’ve been watching Westworld quite closely, so I know all about that.”
What is the history of Partials? How did you as a sextet come together?
It’s been a long growing process, but it crystallized into our current line-up about a year before recording Glossolalia. Some of our members have a long history, which helps our telepathy. Others have joined more recently, which helps our ideas stay fresh. We came together to make musical worlds.
Could you also introduce each member in few sentences?
Alex Eversbusch – “Alex” is short for Alexandros. Designed the landscape architecture for Justin Bieber’s house in Atlanta (for real). Machine-like drumming precision. Writes dancey songs.
Ian Edwards – Our hardware expert. Equally comfortable with 9v or 8va. Working with Thomas on the Rhizome, our Cthulu-like modular synth rig. Asks to play saxophone but we always make him play guitar or synth. Writes synthy songs.
Adriana Thomas – Pulls off David Byrne-level shouting despite being able to sing. Has played a thousand live shows. Occasionally leaves her percussion rig to jump out in the crowd and dance. Writes apocalyptic songs.
Jeff Porter – Lived in India and studied sitar. (He still refuses to play it with us). On guitar for now. Knows a lot about music history. Writes flavorful songs.
Thomas Bailey – Almost has a Master’s in artificial intelligence. Working with Ian on the Rhizome. Tries not to let the bass fall out of the pocket. Writes rhythmic songs.
Dane Walsh – Well acquainted with the line between terribly brilliant and brilliantly terrible. Usually ends up on the right side. Has to carry two keyboards down tiny staircases when we play house shows. Writes lyrical songs.
What is your inspiration when it comes to making music?
We take an experimental approach. There are a lot of interesting, catchy things that haven’t been tried and we want to try them. Fresh, approachable stuff comes out if you can find the right ideas to wire up together. We especially like music that speaks to both the head (good for listening in your bedroom) and the body (good for dancing your ass off at shows).
Your newest project ‘Glossolalia,’ is there a theme to the album + album title + tracklist?
Language is one thread that runs throughout the tracks. We’re especially interested in machines, which have no speech but the speech we give them. This gets brought together in the EP title (glossolalia means “speaking in tongues”). Some people who speak in tongues see it as speaking with the voice of their creator. From that perspective, if computers only speak with the voices we give them, isn’t all their speech glossolalia?
Could you talk us through each track?
Fear Of Silence – Goes from super sparse to super dense. By the end of the song we were aiming to leave not even an inch of silence between sounds. Lyrically, this song starts the EP on a personal note before we dive into weirder territory on later tracks.
Anemoia – The title means “nostalgia for a time you’ve never known.” The atmosphere really blooms in this song, highlighted by some very cool mixing in the intro from our producer Drew Vandenberg.
Man Made Machine – This song and the next one (“Strange Loops”) are the crux in the loose arc of the EP. They represent the narrator’s transition from the biological to the artificial. The lyrics drop away to a single repeated stanza and the groove becomes super tight and robotic.
Strange Loops – The second half of the transition. The narrator, now more artificial than natural, chews on the Liar’s Paradox (“everything I say is lies / everything I say is right”) and the curious, cyclical relationship between humans and the things we make. In keeping with the artificial theme, the guitar hook is a manipulated sample of Jeff’s guitar playing that was originally recorded for Anemoia.
Tear Drum – A tight groove that builds on its Afrobeat roots by adding synth and chord changes between sections. The narrator reflects on their new nature as a spiritual machine.
Polyglot – This song blends ideas from EDM and West African music. The glossolalia that shows up during the build and drop is produced by an artificial intelligence algorithm trying to speak without being told what to say. Narratively, this track circles back around to the beginning of the EP: the narrator, fully artificial, still finds themself faced with human problems.
What is the backstory to the artwork for Glossolalia?
The artwork was an intense collaboration between humans and A.I. It was generated by an algorithm called neural style transfer, which takes the style of one image and applies it to the content of another image. You can use it to do things like make photographs look like they were painted by Van Gogh. In our case, we used a Tibetan mandala as our style image and a beautiful geometric piece by Bruno Borges as our content image. The entire process was extremely labor intensive — we experimented with ~1,000 combinations over the course of several months to find the right art for the album.
Any exciting shows or festivals, your fans can look forward to?
June will be an exciting month — we’ve got AthFest, a local non-profit festival, and Friendship Music & Arts Festival in North Georgia. In July we’ll play Sigh In July, a diy festival our friends host every year.
The Partials EP ‘Glossolalia’ was released on True Blue/Beverly Martel.