Balancing ambient sound design alongside warm organic techno and ripples of delicate electronics; British-born Canadian-based composer, producer and musical director Matt Robertson is set to release his new album ‘Enveleau’ this Friday. Through his work as musical director for Björk, Cinematic Orchestra, Arca and Anohni, Matt has gathered a wealth of experience collaborating with some of the most exciting artists in the world. His recent work with Anoushka Shankar awarded him a Grammy nomination and he recently scored the film ‘The New Corporation – The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel’. DMCWORLD checks in for a world exclusive…
Hello Matt, thanks for speaking with us. For anyone not familiar with you, please introduce yourself and what you do.
Hi! I’m a producer from the UK, living in Canada and I make electronic music. I split my time between producing my own music and also producing or MD’ing for other artists and making electronics for movie soundtracks.
How would you describe your music? What are the elements that you feel make it distinctive?
I come from a background of piano playing, and working with mostly acoustic instruments. And I guess when I really started making my own music, I pro-actively avoided that world (although some piano does creep in sometimes), and that led me to the electronic world. That, and finding an MS20 in the trash at my school when I was a kid, and taking it home and being blown away with what it could do! So I think my music has the excitement of me experimenting with sound, but also comes from a more traditional music background in terms of structure and harmony. I’m always trying to go for sounds that can be interpreted as several different things. That may be emotionally with harmony, finding things that don’t sit happily in either a relaxing or an anxious place, but somehow fit in both; and also rhythmically – I don’t really make music that you can dance to, but sometimes I make things that are ‘danceable’ if you interpret them in a particular way.
Bees - Juno 60, Hydrasynth, RYTM, Yaeltex midi controller, from Matt Robertson / Enveleau
Please talk us through your new album ‘Enveleau’? What inspired you to create the album?
Like with everyone else in the world, 2020 was a really challenging year. I had made a couple of records that always had some kind of live element in mind. Like, how was I going to perform this and how would it work with an audience? For this one, it felt much more solitary, and so maybe more of a headphone experience? I was really trying to go for soundscapes that inspire an inward feeling, but also an expansive feeling. Which is pretty contradictory. But I feel like I needed to keep an outward perspective because of the lack of interactions that we were experiencing.
If money was no object, what item of studio equipment would you get?
First, a bigger studio, to fit the vintage mixing console that I will have one day!! Although, in truth, I have really been enjoying using less gear and smaller gear in the last few years. Like I mentioned about the old MS20 I found, I really get inspired by focusing on one or two pieces of gear that I can really get into. I made a record a few years ago with just an Elektron Analog RYTM and Analog Keys. It reminded me of that feeling I used to get 20 years ago when I’d make a track with a 4-track cassette and a guitar. You knew it was really limited, but it was so fun trying to get something out of that small setup.
But…. if money is no object, an old API console would be amazing!
What have been the biggest influences in your music career so far?
In terms of actual music, I think people like Oscar Peterson, Jean Michelle Jarre, and Prince have had the biggest effect on me. I really wanted to play jazz piano when I was younger, and so listened to a huge amount of Oscar Peterson, who was virtuosic, but also had a sense of fun in his playing I think. Then Jean Michelle Jarre blew my mind with synthesiser music in the late 80s, and Prince somehow got in there with funk guitar, incredible synthesiser arrangements, and astonishing performance.
In terms of process (and as a musician of course), Björk has been a huge influence on me. I have been lucky enough to work with her a lot over the last 10 years as musical director for her live shows. It’s always a privilege to work with people like her and get a glimpse of how she navigates the music, the industry, the process, the attitude, all the balancing acts you need to end up with an incredible record or live show. She is an incredible artist, producer and arranger and it’s impossible to spend any time working with her and not come away with a hundred new perspectives!
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Don’t take it too seriously.
What are three new tracks/albums you’d recommend someone to listen to?
Sam Prekopp, Comma – electronic music which I think marries playfulness and seriousness in an always engaging way.
Snowdrops, Volutes – beautiful soundscapes with Ondes Martinot and strings.
Not new but… Kali Malone, the Sacrificial Code – A really beautiful record showing how much you can do with a very small number of notes.