Santa Barbara native (and Independent staffer) Richie DeMaria has been making ambient-plus electronic music in the tradition of Brian Eno and Harold Budd for several years now. But it wasn’t until he spent all of January, the darkest month of winter, in Haukijärvi, Finland, that he put his tracks together into two separate releases now available on Bandcamp under the artist name Voices of Where.
Vast and Dawns & Dusks reflect both a longstanding practice of modular composition involving the recording and archiving of hundreds of synthesizer samples and the unique atmosphere that DeMaria encountered as a residential fellow of the Arteles Creative Center, an interdisciplinary Finnish think tank with the suggestive motto “Silence Awareness Existence.” More than 220 kilometers north of Helsinki, and with the nearest town of any size being Nokia, which is still more than 30 km to the south, Haukijärvi is in many ways about as far as you can get from Santa Barbara. Yet through the recommendation of his musical collaborator, the Los Angeles–based interdisciplinary artist Geneva Skeen, DeMaria was asked to spend a month there working on his music, meeting with other artists also in residence at the center, and enjoying some of the most unusual climate conditions on the planet. “In an average day, there was about six hours of real daylight sandwiched between these prolonged periods of dawn and dusk,” DeMaria told me. And how cold was it? “One day the temperature hit 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit,” he said.
The resulting music, while redolent of the snowbound mystical state of timelessness one imagines coming out of such circumstances, is nevertheless somehow also viscerally tactile and saturated with humanity (his brother Anthony and friend Sarah Hopkins contributed live instrumentation remotely). DeMaria describes the Voices of Where sound as bringing an improvisatory aesthetic to electronic music so that it “reflects lived experience rather than the digital grid” of 21st-century recording technology. The goal, which after multiple listenings I can attest has been achieved, is to make “songs that evoke peace.” Voices of Where’s Vast and Dawns & Dusks are available on Bandcamp to stream or purchase as a digital download. Visit voicesofwhere.bandcamp.com.