Get ready to become subsumed within nature. Genre-bending artist Reid Willis is back to bite, hot off the heels of his widely acclaimed album Mother Of. This latest offering, Sediment, is an album slowly but surely being unfurled single by single. Taking listeners on a sonic journey of rebirth and reinvention, we’re over the moon with anticipation.
Drawing inspiration from the natural world, Sediment explores the phenomena of changing states, of decaying and eroding matter that over time is not lost, but pulverised and transformed into something new. This delicate melding of seemingly disparate sounds creates an LP whose jagged edges beautifully align into a singular entity.
Willis’s deft and classical touch make Sediment an apt rendering of the unpredictability, yet perfect order, of the natural world. Each track is its own cinematic landscape, vividly linked to the others, creating a collection of scenes that is best experienced in a full stereo field.Throughout, chaos of sharp, electronic pulses leave space for soft, dreamlike piano melodies that carry the listener from one extreme to the next. Tracks often conclude with a brief sense of loss, leaving just enough time to ask ‘What now?’ before delivering an answer as unexpected as it is satisfying.
Before the rising artist embarks on the journey of releasing the album, we had the chance to sit down and chat to Willis. From how he got his start, to the conceptualisation of his body of work – Willis spills all.
Head below to listen to / watch Reid Willis’ latest single “Shoulder The Burden” below…
Head below to read our interview…
Hey Reid Willis! How are you?
I’m doing well. I’m already dreading the Louisiana heat that’s already creeping up in early spring, but I’m super excited for the upcoming release of my album ‘Sediment.’
Where are we speaking to you from?
I am currently in my small home studio in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is a pretty humble setup of the equipment I need and the objects and art around me that keep me inspired.
What was the first thing you thought about this morning?
Coffee. That’s usually my first thought of every morning and the start of every day. Although this morning, I laid in bed a bit longer to pet my cat who was sleeping on my chest, while listening to the symphony of lawn mowers and leaf blowers conducted by my neighbors.
Could you talk us through your start in music?
Music has always been a huge focus in my life. As a small child, I would sit at my family’s receiver with a blank cassette tape, ready to capture any song playing on the radio that struck me.I had an entire shoebox full of mixtapes I’d recorded. Looking back, most of the songs I was interested in were very rhythmically driven, the majority being 80s and 90s synth pop and dance music. I would also borrow some of my dad’s records and play them on my little plastic child’s turntable, Prince’s “I Would Die For You” 7-inch being the most often listened. On the other end of the music spectrum, my grandfather would compile tapes of his favorite classical pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin for me. I think the merging of the classical world with the synthetic electronic world would forever make an imprint on both the music that inspires me and the music I create. At 6 years old, I started taking piano lessons, which gave me a solid foundation for studying composition and music theory in my college years. Throughout high school, I would create my own electronic albums on the family computer and would hand them out to close friends and family.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote? Did you play it for anyone?
I believe I was 6 or 7 when I wrote my first simple piano composition. I called it “The Bear,” and it was in a minor key because I thought it sounded haunting and beautiful. I proudly played it for my family. I believe my parents still have the music booklet I handwrote it in.
Who are some artists that have influenced your sound?
A few of my biggest and most long-term musical influences have been Amon Tobin, Bjork, Radiohead, Boards of Canada, and Clark. Discovering Amon Tobin’s work as a teen just blew the door open completely with the possibilities of sound design and how far it can be pushed, while seamlessly incorporating those sounds into the musical composition. Radiohead’s ability to write a melody that contains so much hope and despair simultaneously has always had a powerful influence on me, and that’s an element I try to work into almost everything I write. Boards of Canada have perfected the subliminal ability to worm their way into your subconscious and bring forth memories that feel like they are from another lifetime. These are all powerful aspects of music that I want to at least attempt to achieve in my work. Composers Debussy, Steve Reich, and Clint Mansell have always been incredibly influential as well. More recent artists that have been huge inspirations for me are The Haxan Cloak, Lorn, and Mesh label-mate Rob Clouth, who are all doing mind-blowing things with production, mood, and world building.
Could you talk about the conceptualisation behind your previous album Mother Of?
‘Mother Of’ was a more skyward facing album, using large, broad strokes. The concept and idea around the album was tackling the human response to vastness and the unknowable. The sound palette of ‘Mother Of’ is celestial and bright, and I picture the perspective as viewing something huge from far away. I was reading Jeff Vandermeer’s trilogy “The Southern Reach” while I was writing a lot of the album, and I think those themes of cosmic mystery and acceptance of the unknowable permeated into the compositions subconsciously. I created the album artwork myself, which is a monochromatic merging of the natural and digital worlds. I also collaborated with visual artist and AI specialist Xander Steenbrugge for the official video of one of the singles, ‘The Ocean Won’t Allow,’ which is an epic human/machine learning journey through constantly shifting landscapes and apocalyptic settings. ‘Mother Of – Piano Reworks’ is a piano focused companion EP, which strips down a selection of songs to their melodic core. We recorded a live film at the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans alongside a violinist and modern dancers. My sister, Whitney Willis danced and choreographed, while my brother-in-law filmed the performance, so it was a lovely, familial based project. The performance is available on my youtube channel.
What about your upcoming album Sediment, how does it – if at all – carry the thread of your previous album?
I view ‘Sediment’ as the other side of ‘Mother Of.’ The focus is more microscopic and Earth-bound. The textures are corrosive, jagged, and subterranean. The human element and experience still remains, but this time, I’m focusing more on the element of slow decay and metamorphosis, and how nothing is really lost but is used as a small element of something new. The sediment of slow corrosion over time is carried away to a different landscape/environment and becomes a part of it. For this album, I wanted the beats to sound rocky, gritty, and kind of dusty. The sound palette is warmer and heavy on the mid range. While the colors I imagine when listening to ‘Mother Of’ are more yellow, green, pink and silver, ‘Sediment’s’ colors are red, brown, rust and gold. The album and single art for this project are beautifully hand-painted pieces by the amazing Natalie Lanson. They depict abstract human forms, gold and orange hues, and microscopic spots of mycelium-like structures.
A specific track from the project “Shoulder The Burden” is a cacophony of sound. What inspired you to do this?
It’s interesting that you view ‘Shoulder the Burden’ as cacophonous. I actually think this track is one of the more straightforward and less dense of the album. I did want the rhythms in this song to be very sharp and jagged, like rocks slamming together and shattering, creating a pulse that threads the track together and drives its kinetic motion. It also features a dominant vocal sample from a song by my sister and brother-in-law. I really like the kind of seething nature of this one.
Your chosen first single from Sediment is “Conveyor”, is there a particular reason?
I believe ‘Conveyor’ is a great tone-setter and introduction into the world of Sediment. It contains almost all of the themes and sounds explored on the album in a complete, digestible package. When choosing a single, I tend to select the songs that came about the most naturally and effortlessly. I felt ‘Conveyor’ had a very focused vision and clear statement. It sits between the two moods of hopeful and melancholy that I love so much. It’s urgent but meditative at the same time. The sampled drums that I chopped and reprogrammed are some of my favorites I’ve ever done, too. Visual artist Voltaine also created a beautiful video to accompany this song, which explores human motion mirrored by the constant growth and changes of nature.
If you could give any advice to young artists starting out, what would it be?
Stick with what is true and authentic to you. If you are passionate enough, that drive will keep you going through any struggles you encounter along the way to realising your vision. Be patient, and be prepared to put in the time you need to find your own sound.
Lastly, do you have any goals for the progression of your sound, or your artistry in general?
I’m always searching for new sounds and techniques and ways I can evolve. Each time I create an album, part of me thinks, “Okay this is it. I don’t know if I can progress any further.” But in reality, the possibilities are endless, and I can always find new ways to push myself and my art. For the past 6 or so years, I’ve been studying violin, and that has been an incredible challenge and inspiration for broadening my musical world. At some point, I’d love to break out of my reclusive lifestyle and put together a complex visual live show, which is a huge undertaking that I think would elevate my work further.