Formed by Pau Roca and Nacho Marco, Spanish duo Diamont Dancer is as much an affair of artistic convergence as it is a matter of new potentialities and deeper self-understanding for the two artists behind the venture. Whilst Pau made a name for himself playing the guitar in long-standing pop rock band La Habitación Roja, as well as a host of side-projects, Nacho established as one of the country’s leading names when it comes to pulsating house and techno blends.
As Diamont Dancer the two musicians forge a sound lushly-textured and atmospheric, straying away from normative club calibration and melodic restrictions to further explore largely beatless poetic horizons. Due out via the newly founded Canoa Snake Records at the end of June, the pair’s first album – ‘Shapes‘ – melds brittle harmonics, processed guitar loops and analog synth drones, evoking a distant analogy with renowned ambient scapists Fripp/Eno, Steve Reich and John Carpenter – each of them hailed by Pau and Nacho as highly influential references.
With less than a month to go until the release of the album, we caught up with the neighbours turned collaborators, as they open up on the making of ‘Shapes‘, the cinematic-friendly essence of Diamont Dancer and studio modus operandi. We’re also glad to share the video for ‘Circle‘, directed by live visual artist Sergi Palau – here found framing up the soothing arpeggios of the track within geometrically-altered visions of icebergs and floe.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"The concept behind the album is a journey through the different geometric shapes, each of them inspired by a different situation, developing a different atmosphere."
Hey Pau, Nacho, hope you’re both well. Your debut album together as Diamont Dancer, ‘Shapes’, is about to come out on newborn ambient and experimental-focussed imprint Canoa Snake Records. Please tell us more about it – what is the big idea/concept behind it?
Nacho: The concept behind the album is a journey through the different geometric shapes, each of them inspired by a different situation, developing a different atmosphere. We wanted the album to be fully composed with analog machines and we decided to use only a few of them in order to keep our creativity at a maximum level.
Before starting we listened to a lot of records by Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Daniel Lanois, Steve Reich, Manuel Gotsching, Alessandro Cortini, Art Of Noise, Harmonia… etc.
It’s safe to say both of you have followed quite different routes in the music industry. Pau, you’re La Habitación Roja’s guitarist – one of Spain’s longstanding indie pop band, and set up various side-projects along the way. Nacho, you’ve been a driving force in the Spanish techno scene for near to two decades, releasing on a wide range of labels including Ovum, Mute and Freerange… How did you first cross paths?
Pau: We’ve known each other for a long time. We have common friends and Nacho collaborated on a track with one of my bands million years ago. We come from a different scene but live in the same city so we’ve been seeing each other from time to time since forever.
Nacho: We’re neighbours, so I guess it helped a bit! I remember we were both booked for a festival back in 2012 – me as a DJ and Pau with his band, La Habitación Roja – and while hanging out backstage we decided it was about time to hit the studio and do something together from scratch.
When did you think “that’s it, let’s get going and start making music together”?
Pau: We began a new project with the singer of my band, La Habitación Roja, but things were going too slow. We felt confortable working with each other and, casually – since we live very close to each other – we started making songs without any established purpose.
I think we’re really complementary. Nacho is very technical, obsessive with the sound and structures, and a true perfectionist, while I am more into improvisation, the kind of guy who thinks “let’s see what happens here if I just play what I think will work while the tapes are recording“. He has lots of vintage stuff, drum machines, keyboards… at his studio, so it’s very cool to have those devices there, connected and ready to be used at any time. It’s important to remark that everything on the record is “real”. There are no samples or libraries of sounds.
Nacho: After a while working on tracks together we got a commission to write a piece of music for a retrospective exhibition of famous painter Artur Heras at Museo La Nau in Valencia. We recorded a 12-minute improvisation of Pau playing acoustic guitar processed through a delay and me on the modulars (‘Pyramid‘) that we also got to play live during the exhibition’s vernissage at the museum. We were so happy with the result that we decided to continue writing ambient stuff up until we had enough tracks to fill an album.
Were the tracks made and woven according to a certain narrative plan? Are they supposed to tell a story?
Pau: It’s supposed to have some kind of narrative feeling. It has to make sense. The fact that everything is really repetitive but never the same makes your brain focus on small details; every time a drone repeats, your brain gets deeper into it and discovers new details. Every sound on the album had to be fluid and interesting. To me, it’s a statement to ask for someone’s attention for so long in this world of constant overload, with so many things claiming your immediate attention.
Nacho – you’re also a tester for Roland and professor at Berklee College of Music. How do these two activities effect your work as a producer and musician?
Nacho: Due to my work at Roland I’m constantly in contact with new technology, which leads me to keep both my skills and knowledge updated. Thanks to Berklee I have the honor and responsibility to teach DJing, sampling, beatmaking and synthesis to young musicians everyday, sharing music, thoughts, concepts, ideas… with them.
Pau – with this project you’re moving from a more “calibrated” focus on melodies and groove towards more spacious, atmospheric experiments. How was it to readapt your playing to this more open-ended format?
Pau: I always loved atmospheres but, as I mainly played in pop/rock/folk bands, everything has to be made to make the songs better so structures are very tight. The voice is what’s leading the song and everything that surrounds the lead vocal melody (or the guitar/keyboard riff) has to be in a second or third layer.
I always loved textures but they were on the background of the sound. Now I can bring them to the fore and structures are free. A song can be less than a minute or over 10 minute-long. A whole new world of possibilities!
The press release indicates you were influenced by the works of Fripp/Eno, Steve Reich and John Carpenter – all of them being musicians known for the deeply immersive, cinematic impact of their sound. Did you imagine and craft ‘Shapes’ as some sort of imaginary soundtrack?
Nacho: Absolutely, we love films and we’re constantly watching some. Always discovering new ones and recommending to one another; commenting, imagining soundtracks, we love atmospheres… and we’re both fans of David Lynch.
While working on the album we got an offer to play at the premiere of a film festival. We were invited to create a new soundtrack for Sergei Eisenstein’s classic ‘Battleship Potemkin’ and play it live while the movie was projected in open air. It forced us to create new material in a short period of time. Some of this stuff will be featured on our next album.
Pau: For live shows we work with a great video DJ and, yes, this music makes you think in terms of melodies, so these tracks would fit perfectly as a soundtrack.
We’re premiering the video for ‘Circle’ – the second track on the album, directed by Sergi Palau; where a ballet of clear and opaque circles ebb and flow over images of icebergs and floe. Can you tell us more about it?
Nacho: Our collaboration with top VJ Sergi Palau (who I’ve been working alongside in festivals and clubs for more than 15 years now) is so productive. We initially asked him to create clips for the live premiere of the album, which happened at Ensems festival last month. His work is stunning, so precise, using his own video recordings and then processing them live. We loved it so much that we asked him to create separate clips of his material to be presented as the official videoclips of the album. First premiere is ‘Circle‘, so we hope you really enjoy it.
What will you be up to this summer?
Nacho: At the moment I’m finishing my next EP for my deep house label, Loudeast Records. I just began the summer semester in college which will keep me busy until the end of July. Right after that we’ll continue working on our next Diamont Dancer album.
Pau: We’re working on new songs and I have to do the summer tour with my band. We want to play some gigs in Autumn but we only want to play in special places, where we feel that our music will be heard and our live visuals displayed properly. Both Nacho and I have enough work, so yes, we want to tour, but only in good conditions.
Shapes is released via Canoa Snake Records on 25th June.