If your All Hallow's Eve fragmented too quickly, or you managed to miss the recent Wiccan “Samhain” festival of darkness, listen to Sultan. We first posted on Sultan — the experimental home-recording project of Brooklyn's Kayla Cohen — in June, and said this:
Kayla sculpts sublime soundscapes that are at once ambient, noisy, and pristine, with Codeine, MBV, JAMC and Spiritualized as smart influences...reverby drones and loops build up and down to a hyper-hypnotic place where the stars align and its all mystical and goth.Since then, her tape-psychedelics have gracefully trudged further into the light. The next Sultan 7" is out on Blackburn Recordings (alongside releases from Big Troubles, Sweet Bulbs and Sore Eros) and her latest tape, "The Moon," is out now on Chocolate Bobka’s Curatorial Club. Early next year, she’ll also be releasing material on New Images Limited, a label from Matt Mondanile of Ducktails and Real Estate. Check out our Q&A with Sultan after the jump, wherein she muses on the influence occult studies, the Tarot, and her years in the New York DIY scene have had on her music. Catch Sultan live at the Bobka/Blackburn showcase at Shea Stadium this Saturday — and grab her Curatorial Club tape (streaming here) before the pagan Winter Solstice creeps up.
JP: When did the idea for Sultan begin to formulate?
KC: The idea for Sultan has been germinating for the past two years. It's sort of trying to be an ideal representation of my personality: how I see myself over the past few years, and in the future. I have always had an idea in my head of exactly what I want Sultan to sound like. The process is trying to somehow reach that ideal. It's sort of like trying, through music, to reach into the essence of my mind, and bring that outside, in hopes that this will accomplish something for my personality or wellbeing. And hopefully other people might see some of their own thoughts in the sound and enjoy listening.
JP: Can you talk about how being involved with the New York music scene over the past few years has influenced your work with Sultan?
KC: For a while I was working at and putting on shows — so I know what it’s like to be in a touring band, and I know how much work it takes to get anywhere with music. Through that, I’ve seen what amazing potential there is for live experiences in New York City... Space truly can be used as an element of the live show. Just thinking about some transcendent shows I've attended here in New York over the past five years: many shows at 3rd Ward, Shangri-La in Greenpoint, Entrance at the Syrup Room a while ago, Market Hotel. That's even after missing the first wave, from 2003 to 2005. It's made me very appreciative of the work people put into the music scene in New York, but also very aware of what it could be.
JP: What kind of equipment do you use to create and record all of these awesome sounds?
KC: Both the cassette and the digital 7" I recorded with a plastic tape recorder, with two mics attached. That’s why the cassette is a cassette, and not a CD. I recorded it straight to cassette and thought it sounded fine that way, so I made some copies with a tape dubber and gave them out, and McGregor wanted to release it, so he did. It's all recorded live without overdubs. It's easy to record that way and that's why I did it. I'm trying to get more sophisticated with the setup for the next things I put out, so I'm experimenting. I do like how tape sounds right now, better than computer recording. Right now all I'm using is a reverb pedal, a loop pedal and a delay, and my Peavey 212 classic.
JP: You've cited Witchcraft and Planetary Movement as influences. How have these elements and aesthetics informed your music?
KC: I am very interested in occult studies, astrology, and mysticism — and so, I am aiming to connect and express these themes through my music. My most recent release, a cassette from the Curatorial Club, was recorded in March. I had been spending a lot of time with the Tarot then, which I am very interested in, and the Moon card in particular was one I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about. So I wanted to record an album that was my interpretation of the "journey" one would take through the atmosphere of the card, or the moon valley in the painting on the card. I recorded that in a couple afternoons in the apartment I was living in at the time.
JP: It seems the aesthetics of the project are dark, but your “Summer Sigh” single is pretty uniquely bright and hypnotic.
KC: The “Summer Sigh” digital 7" has a different feel than the cassette, for sure. That was recorded this summer in an afternoon at my practice space. Those were all improvised and recorded on the spot, which is why there are some weird mistakes in there that I decided to leave in. The sound is pretty bright; it was so hot this summer and I was reflecting that. Those songs are definitely meditations in the sense that playing that way, straight through a loop pedal, can be entrancing. That's a state I try to achieve often when playing.