Nagual Art is the moniker of German artist Andreas Kantner, who has been releasing with this project since 2007. Six albums have seen the light of day since then, among which the poetically romantic “Sternenlieder”, the dark ambient gem “Adoria” and the deliciously eerie “Seance 1931 – Tales From F.”, dedicated to the spirits that were obviously not just the inspiration, but also the source for that particular recording. Most releases were hosted in the now defunct netlabel This Plague Of Dreaming, and in Andreas’ own netlabel ParaLucid. With the occasion of his new release, “Requiem Of A Sailor”, that for the first time is being presented in physical form via Opa Loka Records, we enter into an illuminating conversation with Andreas.
For many of us there’s one particular point in our lives, usually in our childhood or early teens, when we can be allowed to say our true connection with music began. Do you remember what your first encounter with music was, that ultimately inspired you to become a musician?
It’s very difficult to say… I was into music all my life. Even as a little child music meant a lot to me (although in a more subconscious way). I think there was no real decision to become a musician. But I remember one day when my cousin got a Midi Sequencer. It was so much fun playing around with it and creating some simple beats and melodies. I realized that this is a perfect way to “transform” my feelings. So this was the time I began to make music.
How did you come up with the name for the project, and what does it mean to you?
“Nagual” means “the masked” or “the hidden”. I am very interested in dreams, the subconscious and spiritualism, so I chose this term. Besides the English meaning, the term “art” also means “kind” or “type” in German. I like this ambiguity. I think you can say that this kind of music is very often masked. You have to “listen” – not only listen…
Tell us a little bit about the history of your project – releases, live gigs, collaborations, any particular incidents or works that hold a place in your heart, and anything else you might feel is important.
It must have been in 2005 when I founded Nagual Art, and I have released 6 albums so far. For several tracks I have collaborated with other musicians – Michael Schaffer for example, who played guitars for one track on my new album; but also Hermann Voges, who spent his countertenor for two tracks on different albums. I appreciate this kind of collaboration a lot, because it is a very inspirational thing and I always learn something new. (Apart from that, I am rather a lone wolf.)
For “Cathedral of Flyers” I thought about a remix album for some of the tracks, so I asked several artists I knew through my netlabel (ParaLucid). The results of their work were really thrilling and I can imagine doing this again one day. Anyway, there have not been any gigs because I never play live!
We often see a lot of reviews and commentary referring to the same release, yet describing completely different things, to the point where the reader might become a little confused. If it was up to you to describe your music in the way that you see fit – and not necessarily restricted by genre classifications or labels – what words would you use?
Well, I like “Soundtrack” or “Audio Drama” because there is always a story behind my music. Every album has its own concept and works just like a film score. Dark and melancholic in general…
What is the process you usually go through to complete a recording, from beginning to end? I’m referring here not only to the technical aspects of recording, but also your state of mind, something related that could trigger the writing process and so on.
For writing tracks with substance I need a kind of “impulse”, a special feeling. This feeling or idea gets hold of me and I simply forget everything around me. In this moment it is very interesting to see the first glimpse of what the track shall become. I mean the “soul” of the track… the first draft. When the soul “is captured” once, it usually needs weeks, months or even years until the track is finished. Mostly the track is completely overloaded at first, then I cut this and that, change something and so on… until I feel satisfied with it. Another important aspect for me is that I can listen to it on and on without feeling bored. Otherwise I stop working on it because then it feels empty and senseless to go on.
As we all know being an underground musician is not a lucrative employment. What’s your everyday life like – job, family, other activities – and where does making music fit in it? Is it a crucial part of your life or do you view it more like a hobby?
Well, it is a hobby, but also a passion because I literally need to make music. It is not my aim to live from my music. So I need a “real” job of course.
The role that social media play in the promotion and even the survival of an underground artist today is indisputable. Based on your own experience, do you feel that this type of exposure may stand in opposition to the general idea of underground music? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the friendly, everyday communications of artist and audience have somehow detracted from your work by depriving it of its mystery and sense of nobility?
Not really, to be honest. It is your choice how much you reveal of your personal life to your audience. I am still “underground”, although I am on social media sites. 🙂 By the way, Nagual Art is a mystery also for myself…
Post-industrial is a constantly evolving organism, that keeps generating new genres and cross-classifications. On the other hand many newer artists carry significant influences from the pioneers of each genre, and the sheer number of projects and albums makes it more challenging for the casual listener to assess the quality of a release. What is your personal assessment of the current condition of the dark ambient scene? Do you feel it has changed since you first started making music?
Nowadays, there are many more projects than in the past and there is some… well… half-baked stuff out there (I am sorry to be a bit arrogant at this point). Making electronic music has become very easy due to technological developments. You know, copy and paste, find another sample and place it anywhere else… but I think music must “grow” and needs a personal soul. However, in my opinion you can hear when an artist has spent a lot of time and passion into his music, and I am thankful that so many artists enrich our daily lives by taking us to “other worlds” with their music.
Name some of your favourite artists, musicians or not, that constitute an influence and inspiration for your own work.
I cannot name any artist who did really influence me a lot. To be honest, I do not listen to any related music that often. Maybe I could mention Hans Zimmer as an inspiration (without comparing myself to him!). What he does can be equaled by no other (think about his work with Lisa Gerrard for example). In the end I am more inspired by dreams, feelings, places…
And finally, do you have a message for our readers?
Thank you for reading! I always feel bad “preaching” something. Maybe this: start to engage in your dreams.
And many thanks to Santa Sangre for this interview, of course!
Nagual Art – Requiem Of A Sailor
[reviewed by: vitriol]
This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Nagual Art has already given us five releases in the past, all of which are highly conceptual and emit an aura of poetic sensitivity and classical romanticism. From the winterland-themed “Adoria” to the darkly melancholic, poetically introverted “Sternenlieder”, one thing is for sure: that if you allow yourself to immerse in a Nagual Art album, you can just close your eyes and you’ll find yourself somewhere else. That’s how good it is.
“Requiem Of A Sailor” is the project’s latest offering, centered as you may have already guessed, around the topic of sailors. The sea has been to them what it was to the great literary heroes of the past – their mistress, their ambition, their nemesis. It inspired them to push their limits to the point of breaking, to seek for a new land, a new destiny filled with glory and renown. To engage in a fierce battle with themselves and their inner demons. Or even to simply make a living, because there was nothing else they could do. The sea called to them, and they answered its call. This kind of existence however, necessarily cuts one off from everyday life and all that it entails; it creates a sort of imposed marginalization, a deeper and more savage understanding of the forces of nature. Think of Herman Melville, Jules Verne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Joseph Conrad; of the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich. Of polar explorers such as Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton (who is quoted in the CD booklet). This is the kind of atmosphere that this album conveys, and if my references seem a bit too presumptuous I can assure you that it lives up to the task.
The recording is a long one, going up to 70 minutes in total. Containing 17 tracks, the CD comes in a jewelcase with a beautifully designed 4-page booklet. We see the blurred figure of a man emerging from the mist, sailors on the shore of an arctic landscape hailing a boat – coming to rescue them or going away, who knows – a ship sailing through ice. Even from the first track, the album’s namesake, we are greeted with a harmonious, heavenly voice chorus accompanied by lamenting strings and piano. The water-nymphs bid the lost souls farewell. The same motif brings us into the next track, “Two Lovers”; the title suggests a tragic love story, accentuated by the despondent string melodies slowly fading into a dark ambient landscape – the sound is muffled and oppressive but ethereal voices are always present in the background, like mermaids escorting the body of the drowned man to his home in the deep. In the latter half the track bursts into percussions and a melancholic guitar solo, all of which emphasize the woman’s sorrowful dirge. The story of the woman grieving for her companion is followed up in “Song Of The Widow”, where the same female voice sings in the midst of angelic choirs and dramatic piano and string.
From tracks 3 to 9 the musician unravels his truly impressive talent in creating ghost ambient soundscapes. Obsessive drones, spooky sound samples and nerve-stretching string crescendos that seem as if the spirits of the dead have come back to life, complete with seaweed and water dripping from their tattered clothes. Ghostly voices and whispers breaking their icy isolation to get a message through to the world of the living. Creaking wood, rusted metal, roaring thunder. The sound of water pressing on the hulls of wrecked submarines, where the souls of the drowned hover eternally. Creepy piano melodies – like a music box a phantom child has left behind – sudden percussions, bells, muffled screams. And god knows what else. This intensely claustrophobic sensation never leaves the listener until the end of this little ‘album within the album’, that really brought chills down my spine; I can honestly say I haven’t heard ghost ambient this good since the early A Murder Of Angels releases. Only “Zwangsweg 58” breaks the cycle briefly, with its neoclassical strings and bursting percussions.
After that the music returns to its epic atmosphere, abandoning fear for the sake of romanticism. A special mention should be made of “The Battle We Didn’t Choose”, one of the saddest and most beautiful melodies here, that is dedicated to Angelo Merendino and his wife Jennifer. Angelo recorded his wife’s battle with breast cancer, and wrote a book to honor her memory after her death. “Newborn Sailor” ends the album in a similarly emotional note, with its epic climax including quick percussions, trumpets and voice fading out into a subdued ending.
The truth is that all of the tracks are equally impressive, and I’d like to write about all of them. That however would make for a really long, and potentially boring review. These stories of doomed love, sunken hopes and dreams, but also faith and heroic perseverance, will not fail to move even the most skeptical of listeners. The album stands out for its skillfully honed cinematic qualities, its high level of composition, production and execution and last but not least, the ingenious way it combines a wide variety of elements in a coherent result. Soaring soundtrack music, classical religious chants, operatic and ethereal vocals, industrial dark ambient, even some elements of modern rock (although scarce) – they all find their place in “Requiem Of A Sailor”. The artist remains totally focused in his goal, which is to explore the theme and impart to the listener everything connected to it. This work should be approached in the same manner that you approach an old book of poems by your favourite poet; if you give the music the honesty, respect and good will that the artist has so obviously given in its making, you will have an unforgettable experience that surpasses by far the boundaries of the post-industrial scene, or any other scene for that matter. You would be amiss not to try.