Leandro Fresco serves up an hour’s worth of Pop Ambient inspired music to help celebrate the release of his new album “El Reino Invisible“, the first release on Wolfgang Voigt’s newly established Kompakt Pop Ambient division, a sub-label focussed specifically on ambient music.
In the interview below Leandro shares how his career in both rock and roll and electronic music has evolved. Through touring with Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati and meeting up with Michael Mayer to exchange music in Buenos Aires, which led to the resulting signing of Leandro Fresco to Kompakt.
Let’s begin by talking about the mix. How did you approach it and what ideas did you have in mind?
I approached this mix in a cinematic way and I took my time to select the tracks. Also, I like to add other interesting sound elements to my mixes. For example, in a previous podcast I used audio from interviews with people like Salvador Dali and the writer Julio Cortazar.
Obviously you’ve pulled together a DJ mix for us, but is DJing something you regularly do? Would you consider yourself a DJ?
Yes I play as a DJ and I love to play ambient stuff, although my DJ sets can be more dance floor oriented sometimes.
Your new album El Reino Invisible has just touched down. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about its making and how it differs from your last ambient album, 2005’s Luz Sin Calor?
Unlike “Luz Sin Calor” this album has no beat. The tracks also retain something melodic that connects with Pop. The songs from the album are constructed from layers of synthesizers. There are also more organic timbres, guitars and a lot of processed sounds from the computer.
The tracks on the album are melancholic and romantic, [qualities which have] an association with the Tango, which is the music of Rio de La Plata of Buenos Aires, where I live, and which has influenced my sound. The album was made between Buenos Aires and San Martin De Los Andes, a small town in Patagonia where my parents live. The landscape of Patagonia is very inspiring.
In the notes to the album you say “I do not associate this album with feelings of sadness, but with hope, light and the summer heat, full of cyan and orange colours”. – Do you think ambient music has too often been conflated with overly emotional melancholia?
There is an association between coldness and electronic music, and even more so with ambient which is a much less popular genre. But I do not always see it that way, nor do I associate this album with the cold despite my surname (“Fresco” translated to English means “Fresh“.) I like listening to ambient music during the day and in hot weather. I would ideally listen to this album secluded on a beautiful Caribbean beach.
El Reino Invisible is also the first album on Kompakt’s new Pop Ambient series, which is being curated by Wolfgang Voigt. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about your relationship with the label. How did you first start working with them?
[I first met Michael Mayer] on a trip that he took in 1999 when he DJ’d at the Goethe Institute of Buenos Aires. There is a connection between electronic music from my city and the music of Cologne and it was a very special moment; Michael is very polite and showed a lot of interest in the electronic scene of Buenos Aires.
In 2001 I travelled to Barcelona and coincidentally, the same night that I arrived in the city Michael was playing at a show at Nitsa Club. I went there to greet him with a demo DAT. These tracks ended up as the “Amor Internacional” on Kompakt in 2002.
Later, my work as a musician in the Gustavo Cerati band and constantly touring meant that I lost contact with the label for a while. Around 2012 I exchanged a few emails with Michael and he gently again invited me to send him music. I sent new material and the musical relationship was re-established. All the people at Kompakt are very friendly and it is a pleasure to work with them.
How did the album end up being the first in the series? Did you approach Kompakt with the idea or did they headhunt you for the new series?
Last year I had dinner with Michael Mayer, taking advantage of his visiting Buenos Aires. At dinner I told him I had a new ambient album finished. I sent it to him and after a while received an email from Wolfgang Voigt who proposed to release the album. He explained that he wanted the LP as the first launch of the new sub-label specialising in Kompkat’s ambient music. Such a proposal was an incredible honour for me. It was a surprise and I am very happy.
You’ve been releasing music for nearly two-decades now. What do you think of ambient music’s progression in that time? Has the genre become richer?
Fortunately, yes. The scene is much bigger now and there are a lot of great new artists and labels around the world.
Discogs tells me that you have put out nine records in nineteen years. What else do you spend your time doing? Do you have a day job?
I started to play my music in the underground circuit whilst studying for graphic design at the University of Buenos Aires, back then my ambient sound was more noisy and experimental. Then from 2000 I started to work with Gustavo Cerati: one of the most important rock stars in Argentina. Cerati’s career has been very successful, so my work with him has enveloped a lot of my time. It may sound a little strange but it’s true, my job for over 10 years has been recording Cerati’s albums and touring in his rock band. Here’s an example:
Of the nine records you’ve put out, five of them have been albums – an impressive ratio! Do you find that you need the long-player format to express your ideas?
It depends on each project. Each record suggests a particular duration.
In the past you have described yourself as a ‘non-musician’. I was wondering if you could explain a little more about what you mean by that?
My musical training is self-taught; I began to dabble in music without knowing how to execute any instrument and I ignored the traditional techniques. Rather than musical training, I had musical information. [Since then] I have heard enough disks and have been fortunate to work with musicians from whom I have learned many things.
Your new album is very different to your previous self-titled album, which incorporated rock and disco sounds. Was that album borne out of a wish to make something other than ambient?
In 2010 there was a tragic accident with a friend of mine that made me rethink many things. In the artistic field, I would have been easier to make another ambient and electronic album, but I felt that making an album of songs was more artistically risky. That album was influenced by my work of years in Cerati’s band, and composed during a difficult time. It was a test for me. At an artistic level I took Brian Eno as a model, who has played with Roxy Music, and worked in the field of ambient music and songs.
You’re based in Buenos Aries. Are you wired into the city’s music scene? What are the venues or clubs that you tend to frequent (if any)?
Yes, there is a very interesting scene and lots of good bars and clubs. I do not frequent any one of them in particular; there are many festivals and a lot of things including mainstream and underground scenes, so I choose depending on the type of music I want to hear rather than the venue itself.
Finally, what would you choose as the greatest ambient albums of all time?
- Brian Eno ‘Ambient 1 (Music For Airports)’
- The KLF ‘Chill Out’
- GAS ‘GAS’
- Aphex Twin ‘Selected Ambient Works Volume II’
- Bernhard Günter ‘Details Agrandis’
- Various ’Ambient 4: Isolationism’
1. Leandro Fresco “La Herida Del Soldado”
2. How To Disappear Completely “A Constant Wave Of Loss”
3. Thore Pfeiffer “Wie Es Euch Gefallt”
4. Markus Guentner “Hotel Shangai”
5. Leandro Fresco “Cuando El Sol Grita La Mañana”
6. Elvis Presley “Love Me Tender”
7. Bochum Welt “The Garden And The Chateau”
8. Leandro Fresco “Juegos De Guerra”
9. Melorman “Over The Ocean”
10. Winterlight “I Still Hope”
11. Gustavo Lamas “Jóvenes (Ambient Remake)”
12. Bijou “Naiv”
13. Markus Guentner “Umgebung”
14. Cousin Silas “Beginnings”
15. Michael Mayer “Baumhaus”
16. Cousin Silas ”Begginnings”
17. Leandro Fresco “Sol De Medianoche”
18. Bjorn Rohde “Tour De Pyrinees”
19. Ocoeur “Fusion”