Slipping effortlessly into a groove which will no doubt stumble in the near future, we are proud to present a selection from Patricia Hall, the nonchalantly voiced frontwoman for Soft Metals. The Portland duo have just released their eponymous debut album on Captured Tracks, the Brooklyn label responsible for some noisy excellence in recent times.
Soft Metals, pitched as the synth pop romance between Patricia and Ian, has been soundtracking the summer months here at Slutty Fringe HQ, so we jumped at the chance to secure a mix from them. The resulting 75 minute selection surpassed all expectations with Patricia delving through some of our favourite tracks from the Minimal Wave imprint of recent times before swerving through Chicago House, Dutch electro and Sheffield Bleep.
It goes along way to showcasing the influences that runthroughout the band’s ten track debut set, and if you would like a further dissection of the aforementioned we would recommend the indepth interview Patricia and Ian sat through Sherri Honan for FACT last month. In light of that discussion, we eschewed the opportunity to go over well trodden ground with Patricia and instead engaged her in some curveball questioning.
Hi Patricia, firstly congratulations on the album, how do you feel about it finally being out there?
Thank you. It feels good to have finished our first album. We really learned a lot from the whole experience. I can’t wait for Ian and I to work on the next one.
From reading interviews with both Ian and yourself ahead of the album’s release it seems you’ve been grilled plenty on the influences that make up the Soft Metals sound musically, though not much attention has been paid to the stated cinematic influences – could you divulge further?
During the time Ian and I were writing and recording the album I had been watching a lot of strange, beautiful films such as Hausu, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Daisies, Enter the Void, Malá morská víla, Mademoiselle, The Cremator, Elevator to the Gallows, Electra, Dogtooth, Profundo Rosso, Suspiria, The Lives of Others, Seven Samurai, Ugetsu, La Femme Nikita, Pierrot Le Fou. Those films are either completely bizarre, based in a fantasy world, set in the past I never knew, or a culture I’m not part of.
I love that about them. I want our listeners to escape the mundane and get immersed in a whole new world. I think of our songs as little stories and my voice as a character in that story. Our music is the location, the atmosphere, the time period. Our songs start out as an improvised session together. After we listen back to the music I start to get visions of a story that the music would be a soundtrack to. Sometimes it’s a memory from my life made surreal through my emotional connection to it, and sometimes it reminds me of a something in a film or documentary I have seen. Lyrics get written and fit into the song and then the focus goes more on fleshing out the song to create a world for it in terms of sound. There is a lot of time spent on crafting the synth sounds and effects to create a mood that better fits the story.
I wouldn’t say that our songs are rigidly linked to any particular film, but elements of films I’ve seen get internalized and channeled into the music. I wonder if our listeners feel this way but when I hear musical notes in certain progressions or the tone of a sound I immediately see night or day, city or nature, colors, or black and white, living things or inanimate objects. As far as linking the songs to specific films, “The Cold World Melts” was very much inspired by the tragic romance in “The Lives of Others”. I wanted to get across how their love for one another colored their dark, sad world. “Psychic Driving” was inspired from the second part of the BBC Adam Curtis documentary, “The Living Dead”. There’s a lot of powerful footage of women undergoing electroshock treatment and brainwashing, and repeated listens to subliminal message tapes. It’s really heartbreaking. It made me think of my life and the bad experiences I have had and how they have shaped me. I decided, if given the choice I want to live with my memories. I reclaimed the idea of psychic driving to be more of a cognitive process where you can decide how things effect you. The sounds and melodies are lulling, soothing. I see a woman lying down and exploring her memories and freeing herself of the ghosts that haunt her. My voice is a powerful voice in her psyche. The arpeggio that comes in after the chorus is like an electric current in the brain expelling the unwanted thought. It’s a song about a healing ritual.
The song “Voices” is about the same thing. It’s an idea of mental hygiene and I hope that helps people take control of their lives and minds. “Celestial Call” is about an idea of our consciousness leaving our biology and traveling elsewhere. It’s about freedom from death, gender, time, age, physical limitations. Perhaps it looks like the DMT trip in “Enter the Void” with the idea of becoming a “spiritual machine” where technology allows you to transcend your biological form as described by Ray Kurzweil where you are “ready to do anything, or be anything, you want or need”.
Do you ever day dream about living out the life of a particular film character? For example I can quite happily stalk the streets of London chugging on a smoke listening to The Kills and pretending I’m Romain Duris from The Beat That My Heart Skipped….
Of the films I just listed above I think it would be pretty cool to live the triple life of Nikita from La Femme Nikita- former teenage delinquent, trained assassin, and lover.
Where’s the best place in Portland to get drunk and the best place for bloody mary’s?
I tend to have way too much fun drinking and dancing at Holocene in Portland and to my knowledge Genie’s and The Florida Room have the best Bloody Mary’s.
No, he hasn’t, but we’re flattered that he asked Soft Metals to play with Glass Candy and Chromatics last year in San Francisco.
What’s your idea of paradise?
I’d love to have a large country home in a secluded forest with a lake (maybe the Columbia Gorge) that Ian and I could escape to and just work on music. Of course it would be full of synths like Vince Carke’s cabin.
Capybara or Sloth?
I’ve fallen a bit in love with your cover version of Throbbing Gristle in recent weeks, is this something you’ve always performed live or did you decide to record it especially for that Mishka grave wave comp?
“Hot On The Heels of Love” was a song we had covered when we first began working together. We got musically familiar with one another by doing our own interpretations of songs we love. The first song we ever did was “Red Light” by Siouxie Sioux and The Banshees and the second was “Hot on the Heels of Love”. Desire Records in Paris wanted to release something from us. We showed Jerome at that label the Throbbing Gristle cover we did and he decided to release it as a split 7″ with our friends’ band Jewels of the Nile. A little while after that, Mishka asked if we would submit a track to their Grave Wave Comp and we thought that song would fit nicely with the theme.
The mix you did covers some of my favourite cold wave tracks as well as a dash of Dutch electro and the recently uncovered Virgo Four classic “It’s A Crime” – this is clearly the mix of someone who knows their music al onions – is DJing you do regularly?
I used to DJ a lot, but lately have been spending more time working on making music. Thanks for giving me a DJ assignment! It was a lot of fun to make this mix.
Do you have any plans to visit the UK as I’d imagine Soft Metals would pack out White Heat on a Tuesday night with little problem….
We’re figuring out our European tour plans right now. Ian is starting grad school this fall so we will have to plan the tour during his school breaks. As soon as we are able we will play there. We can’t wait!
Who would your ideal tour partners be for a UK wide set of shows?
It would be fun to tour with our friends Innergaze, Cosmetics, and //TENSE//.
Finally what’s the first thing that pops in to your head when you see the words Slutty
Bedroom eyes blackened with kohl looking through luxurious sweaty hair.
1. Philippe Laurent – Exposition 5
2. Linear Movement – Due To You
3. Krisma – Samora Club
4. Ceramic Hello – Symphony of Shudders
5. Guerre Froide – Ersatz
6. Chris & Cosey – Heartbeat
7. Logic System – Unit
8. Ruth – Thriller
9. Emak – Tanz in dem Himmel
10. Section 25 – Reflection
11. Hard Corps – Water
12. Soit-P.P. – n.IASP
13. Unit Moebius – Nutrasweet
14. Tuff Little Unit – Join The Future
15. Virgo Four – It’s A Crime
16. LFO – Nurture
17. Legowelt – Driving Through An Amiga Forest
18. Jeff and Jane Hudson Up From Hell
19. Psyche – Splattered Nerves