YouTube’s autoplay function has to be one of the handiest tools when it comes to rediscovering albums and unearthing hidden gems. Recently, after listeningto Midori Takada’s classic album ‘Through The Looking Glass‘ for the umpteenth time, I stumbled upon the music of an unknown Vancouver-based ambient producer going by the name of Precipitation.
His mesmerising four-tracker ‘Meditations on the Self and the Other‘ served as an introduction and I was left intrigued; I couldn’t get his music out my head, so I felt we had to ask Zefan to contribute a mix to our podcast series and find out more about him. In the interview below Zefan lifts a corner of the veil on his multi-faceted personality as he talks up his evolution as a musician, his special inclination for sampling, relationship with Vancouver and future plans as Precipitation and his new project alongside Soft Fit named Aquatic Language.
Interviewed by Vittoria de Franchis Pictures by Joyce Liao & Jason Chiu
"Towards the end of high school I started experimenting with synthesizers and other forms of electronic sound, while also beginning to listen to some early ambient records like the works of Fripp & Eno and Jon Hassel."
Hello Zefan, thank you for this ascending two hour mix, which is something quite new within our mix series! Let’s start with the mindset of the mix and the set up you’ve used.
Thank you! I’m really honoured to be a part of the series. I often find myself moving back and forth between producing ambient and more dance floor oriented tracks, I thought for this mix I would do a split of the two.
The ambient section in the first hour is a collection of tracks I find particularly inspiring, and many are very close to my heart, being tied to a lot of different significant events in my life over the past few years. The more dance floor oriented section in the second hour is a collection of tracks that really stand out to me in one way or another, be that by evoking some emotional response, or by simply banging hard. The mix was recorded live in the studio at Deep Blue, in Vancouver (shouts to the Delivery Boys for letting me use their decks).
Since almost nothing is known about you: how did you get into electronic music and what is your background?
I grew up in quite a musical household and around the age of ten started learning guitar and subsequently cello, as well as dabbling with other acoustic instruments. Towards the end of high school I started experimenting with synthesizers and other forms of electronic sound, while also beginning to listen to some early ambient records like the works of Fripp & Eno and Jon Hassel.
Things sort of clicked when I discovered the small but essential selection of Chicago House records in my dad’s collection. At that point I started acquiring some gear and working on my first recordings while delving into electronic music of all sorts. I started the Precipitation project probably around late 2010 and self-released an album on compact disc in early 2012. Things slowly took off from there.
"If something elicits some sort of emotional response in me, then it makes me want to interact with it, and sampling, for me, is a really profound way of doing that."
You seem to be impervious to trends and developing a very particular musical line. What kind of artists or labels are inspiring you nowadays?
Lately I’ve been really inspired by a lot of the music on Jungle Gym Records, out of Seattle. In particular some of the tracks on the label from Dravier really stand out to me, as I’m sure one can tell from the track list. I’m also constantly interested in what’s going on at Proibito Records, run by Anthony Naples out of New York.
Their releases are just always on point, both sonically and visually. Huerco S.’s recent ‘For Those Of You Who Have Never And Also Those Who Have‘ is really close to my heart and has been on constant rotation since it came out. I’m also continually awed by the Opal Tapes affiliate Body Boys.
His/her/their tracks are just so devastatingly beautiful; they’ve certainly gotten me through a lot of hard times. And Lobster Theremin, run by Jimmy Asquith out of London, is an absolutely constant source of new and intriguing sounds. Of course that’s just to name a few. There’s so much wicked music coming out all the time, I’m constantly being blown away.
‘Meditations On The Self And The Other’ has been my overthinking remedy for months; it has a strong new age feeling and I initially thought it was from the Nineties. You often use samples in your productions – as Debussy’s one in your last EP – can you tell us something about this combining choices and the use of samples?
Sampling for me is just an endlessly fascinating process. Depending on the track and sample I definitely approach it differently, but one thing that I really love about using samples is the way it’s possible to take some little snippet of audio and completely transform it. Sometimes I choose a sample because it’s from something I find inspiring or interesting; sometimes it’s simply because it gives me a certain feeling.
For me, making music is really all about evoking feelings and that also plays into how I listen to music and other audio. If something elicits some sort of emotional response in me, then it makes me want to interact with it, and sampling, for me, is a really profound way of doing that. It allows me to really focus in and draw out the particular feeling; sometimes it’s from such a specific tidbit of audio. I like being able to take a little tidbit like that and turn it into an entire world.
"More than anything else I do my music as an outlet for my emotions, and thus I think there is a very critical interplay between my mind, my work, and the city."
You are based in Vancouver – what is your relation with the city? How is the electronic music scene?
I was born in Toronto and moved to Vancouver in late 2012 when I started University. Since that time, the city has grown to be a home for me (as much as any place feels like home at the moment). Having grown into the beginnings of adulthood here, the city has been a backdrop to many changes in my self and my life, and as a result many of its locations are of great emotional significance to me.
I’m really interested in nostalgia, and the processes by which locations become significant to people and come to represent more than just their physical locations in space. As a result, the city, with all its significance for me, is a constant evoker of thoughts, feelings, memories, and emotions, and all of this plays into my work. More than anything else I do my music as an outlet for my emotions, and thus I think there is a very critical interplay between my mind, my work, and the city.
The electronic music scene here is really vibrant and interesting. There’s constantly something going on and a lot of excellent music being made, but at the same time, it’s a small enough scene that it maintains a strong sense of community. Growing up I never really had a strong artistic community around me, so being able to have even a small part in the scene here has been really rewarding. As in many cities I imagine, lack of viable space continues to be an issue.
What have you been up to since ‘Reaching Out’ on Get The Balance Right!? And what are your future plans?
Since releasing the EP I’ve been continually working on music as Precipitation and have a decent number of tracks yet to find a home. Towards the end of 2016 I started to focus back on some more ambient works, which I have always found challenging to produce, but ultimately capable of being very emotionally powerful.
At the same time, I also started working on a collaboration with my friend Kristian, aka Soft Fit. Our debut tracks under the name Aquatic Language will be coming out soon on the wonderful French label Ville Nouvelle, so that’s something to look out for.
My latest project as Precipitation is a venture into deep, meditative ambient zones based on a recent journey to the Northermost point of Japan. Along with the album I’ve been working on a full-length video and a photo book that will all go together as an encompassing audio-visual experience.
1. Khotin – Recycle (Drift Mix)
2. Haruomi Hosono – Talking
3. Dravier – k4 (summit take)
4. M. Geddes Gengras – Magical Writing
5. Huerco S. – Promises of Fertility
6. Khotin – Dialogue 6
7. Laurel Halo – Light + Space
8. Anna Domino – Caught
9. DJ Longdick – Haze
10. Anthony Naples – At Ease
11. Anthony Fade – Like That
12. DJ Plant Texture – WeFi
13. Dravier – Harbour Fog
14. Omar S – Desert Eagle
15. Jack J – Take It To The Edge
16. Ross From Friends – In An Emergency
17. Supreems – Us Together
18. H.S. – Untitled
19. Aquatic Language – Départ (forthcoming on Ville Nouvelle)
20. Precipitation – Untitled (unreleased)
21. Cloudface – Untitled
22. Body Boys – Yunnan
Discover more about Precipitation on Inverted Audio.PrecipitationGet The Balance Right!Indole RecordsVideogamemusicAmbientHouseNew Age