We sat down with Claire Courchene, the mind and musician behind Ana-Tole, to hear about her latest album in the epic space saga of Ana-Tole: Into the Black Hole. Learn about the inspiration behind the latest installment in her journey, as well as the creation process of Claire’s first surround sound album, and don’t forget to check her album out in our shop.
Tell us about the origin of Into the Black Hole - what made you decide to mix it in 5.1?
A few years ago, I was hanging out with my friend & mixing engineer Brandie Lane discussing the outer space concept of the Ana-Tole project, my fascination with AR & VR, and how I could tie the music, the stories, and latest technology together. Brandie had been heavily involved in surround sound music for a while and introduced me to the concept of creating music in an immersive environment which tied in directly with my interest in VR. So I decided to experiment with it and rework some of my tracks specifically with that in mind.
As a 5.1 album, “Into the Black Hole” has potential to reach a lot of new listeners, what would you say to introduce those newcomers to the driving force behind your work?
I love to create worlds, through music & written stories, so anytime I have an opportunity to transport the audience to some place - I do it. For this particular EP, I hope that people can sit and imagine themselves floating through space when they listen to it.
What would you tell people to get them to listen to your music, or support immersive audio as a whole?
The first time I heard an immersive album, it changed the listening experience drastically for me, and I began to hear the music differently. It just offered much more and completely enriched the experience, so I highly recommend it to everyone. I had the exact same reaction when I first heard my album mixed in 5.1. It’s like a new world of creativity opened up to me when I sat and listened. I find it more engaging than an ordinary stereo experience, and can easily be swept away into the world and space it creates.
The theme of outer space runs through your recent work, yet there’s no sound in space. Do you have any thoughts on this seeming contradiction?
I have thought about that quite a bit. I think it can be difficult for most people these days to find quiet or silence. But for Ana-Tole it’s the opposite, as she’s surrounded by the vacuum of deep space and has to deliberately seek out sound. So it makes me happy to depict these characters accompanied by music, imagined inside their spaceships with elaborately futuristic sound systems.
You’ve distinguished yourself with the unique offering of “stereo/graphic stories,” can you explain what this is and what inspired you to create them?
I do quite a bit of film work as a composer, so I’ve always been fascinated with the marriage of sound and sight. So when I first started making music for Ana-Tole with The Arkadian Spring album, I deliberately worked with the same vocalists on multiple tracks to create a running narrative throughout the album - as if they were characters in a film. As the songs came together, I started visualizing an accompanying story and approached the tracks as if they were a soundtrack.
As an indie artist, I have very limited budget constraints, so I worked to create the Ana-Tole world within my capabilities which turned into these ‘stereo + graphic’ stories.
Over the last few years, that interest in storytelling accompanied by music developed into a fascination with AR & VR exploration, which was a large part of why I wanted to make an immersive album in the first place. I hope to eventually be able to create a live performance utilizing immersive audio with AR elements.
Did you notice any unique challenges of creating for, recording, or editing 5.1 for the first time?
I started out with very little knowledge of how to utilize the channels well. I wanted crazy panning to make use of the space. However I quickly learned that with electronic music, it’s hard to have drums floating around in every speaker because it’s easy to lose the beat with too much movement. I also had to learn about utilizing the space to open up the choruses to make them seem bigger & in contrast to the verses. My favourite thing though was setting the strings in certain ways, so the listener can imagine themselves right in the center of an ensemble with the different musicians surrounding them.
Who are some artists who have shaped your work?
For this project I’ve been heavily influenced by Yoko Kanno and Cowboy Bebop and also the Gorillaz.
What impact has the recent pandemic had on you as an artist?
Luckily, it didn’t affect my day-to-day life that much, as I predominantly work alone at my studio, but it really helped allow me the headspace and time to finish the album. Through Zoom sessions, Brandie and I were able to work remotely together on the mixing (she’s in NY & I’m in Copenhagen) with decent sound quality, which allowed us to work so much more quickly compared to the dozens of mix notes via email we had been exchanging before the pandemic.
On the flip side, because of the pandemic I won’t be able to do any live performances or listening parties to support this album for a while, which really changes the way I was hoping to introduce it to the world.
Last question: what is one message you would like to impart to listeners of your new album?
I just hope that listeners can allow themselves to be immersed in the chill ambiance of the music and use it to find some inner stillness. I’m excited to come up with another album concept and see how I can explore it in 5.1.
Ana-Tole’s Into the Black Hole is out now and available for download in lossless 5.1 here.