Rescued From The Fire: d’Eon on Steve Reich

An ongoing series in which we ask artists the record they’d risk life and limb to save from a burning inferno

The Montreal-based pop auteur d’Eon is probably best known through his releases with the Hippos In Tanks label, including the nine-track split EP Darkbloom with Grimes. His surprising music reveals a fluency not just in fashionable dance trends, but also American minimalism and the ragas of the subcontinent, among others. We spoke to d’Eon about the record he'd risk the flames for, which turned his life around at the tender age of 11.

Steve Reich Music For 18 Musicians (1978, ECM)

This was pretty easy to think of. Mine would definitely be Music For 18 Musicians by Steve Reich. I heard that for the first time when I was 11, and it was really like a huge revelation. You know, hearing something like that in sort of a classical or orchestral setting really had a huge effect on the way I listened to music. 

Steve Reich at 11? I was into Kriss Kross at the time.

[laughs] Yeah, it was weird. I got a keyboard for Christmas when I was a really little kid, and so I asked my parents if I could start learning keyboard and piano pretty early. I didn’t come from a rich family, but they figured out how to put me through piano lessons, and one of my music teachers showed me that album. We were going through a 20th century sort of phase in our lessons, and what really struck me even then was that Steve Reich comes from a time where most academic music was incredibly dissonant and atonal and purposely not beautiful. It was very mechanical – like [Karlheinz] Stockhausen or [Luciano] Berio or even John Cage and those guys. Regarding Steve Reich – you know it sounds really crazy now, but it was edgy to make music that was pretty and that sounded nice and had beautiful notes that were consonant. You know, it was edgy in the academic world to have notes that actually went together harmonically. And nobody in his world even gave a shit about what he was doing at that time, because it was too tonal, it was too beautiful and too pretty.

Much of your music displays some elements of Reich with counterpoints and polyrhythmic melodies.

Exactly. I always listened to a lot of Reich, and then shortly thereafter, when I was an early teen, I started listening to stuff like Underworld and The Future Sound Of London and The Orb – and obviously they owe a lot to Steve.

I just really like the fact that he concentrates on notes, and the beauty of notes. Even with his more sample-based stuff like Different Trains and New York Counterpoint he turns speech samples into notes, playing with the speech cadence to make a melody. I think it was really brave of him to just say, “All of your academic concepts of serialism and dissonance are all really interesting, but how about listening to something that’s beautiful. I want to make something that’s beautiful.”

And now you combine the Steve Reich approach to music with 80s R&B...

Haha, yeah exactly. I figure, you know, I like Terry Riley and Teddy Riley equally.

By d’Eon on July 27, 2012

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