Angel Marcloid is incredible for a wide variety of reasons. There’s no denying it. Fire-Toolz. Nonlocal Forecast. MindSpring Memories. Toad Computers. ᴡ ᴇ в s ɪ ᴛ ᴇ ツ. Angelwings Marmalade. These are some – but not all – of her musical projects (a good handful of them are household names by now; Pitchfork has written about her Fire-Toolz work extensively, for instance – and even NPR has championed one of her music videos). In addition to forging these intricate, breathing sonic landscapes, she also commissions a steady flow of mastering/mixing/production work via her home business Angel Marcloid A/V – which has grown to become the go-to destination for a seemingly endless list of musicians who desire to utilize her ears and encyclopedic knowledge of genre to enhance their compositions. Add to that a strong understanding of web design/coding, an obsession with quantum theory/physics in general, and a hyper-defined interfaith belief system that is hinged on the marriage of science and mysticism (all of which are interconnected and play considerable roles in her creativity/work ethic), and you have someone who tends to fluster writers like me who are either tasked with or take it upon themselves to both sing her praises and provide a clear picture of who she is and why she does what she does.
Thankfully, I’m writing about something specific:
“Holographic Universe(s?)!” – the latest installment of Marcloid’s progressive, new age jazz fusion project Nonlocal Forecast – is set to release on Chicago’s ever-diverse Hausu Mountain label October 30, 2020. Its premise revolves around the Holographic Principle theory – the proposition of our 3D universe being a simulation that is actually coded onto a 2D plane. Furthermore, as described by Hausu management, “The (s?) parenthetical within the title references the Multiverse Theory, or the idea that infinite universes could exist, and the Many Universe Theory, which imagines that the universe we perceive is just one of many parallel branching universes each created by the collapse of a quantum waveform. The notion of divergent universes ties into the overall arc of Marcloid’s many musical projects, each of which seems to sketch out its own topography with clear rules and limitations to define their discrete compositions”.
Being that she has been interviewed a great many times, I tried my best to both ask new questions and stay within the realm of Nonlocal Forecast. However, as it goes with Marcloid, things find a way to expand pretty quickly. And that’s just fine.
Her music is vast. Her ambition is unparalleled in the experimental music community. And it seems she can’t stop finding interesting, insightful things to say about not only her music, but also the human condition and the mysterious universe(s)? we live in.
IH: Themes and underlying narratives are an integral part of your collective projects. What I’m curious about is how they inform Nonlocal Forecast compositions – or vice versa. I assume the absence of lyrical content makes it a bit easier to shape things as you go. And going off of that (this can apply to anything you’ve recorded, really): Are there aspects of your records (such as symbolism, patterns, or even just specific killer passages) that fans or writers like me have completely glossed over? Things that were unfortunately lost in translation? Can you think of a specific example when it comes to Nonlocal Forecast?
AM: The absence of lyrical content makes it enormously easier. I can just choose a name for the song, and that’s that. The song represents the thing the title refers to. No need to connect any more dots. With instrumental music, meanings can cover more ground. If my title represents something dense, I don’t have to worry about covering all of it in the lyrics. I do love writing and having lyrics, but instrumental music introduces a lot of freedom in that way.
The name Nonlocal Forecast is obviously a reference to weather and weather forecasts, but the “Non-” prefix is important. It is not referring to the forecast of some far away place. Nonlocal does not mean far. It means there is no space. At least not in an absolute sense. It is a concession, it is something we seem to experience on this plane, in this dimension. Time, too. This is something you’ll learn in physics, and it’s also touched on in all kinds of ancient spiritual traditions and philosophies. Nonlocal Forecast, much like Fire-Toolz and MindSpring Memories, is constantly bringing together the scientific/empirical/physical reality, and the mystical/esoteric/spiritual. There is no true separation between the two, but differentiating them can be helpful.
Writers & supporters regularly, routinely, gloss over symbolism, patterns, etc. There is no way around it. I don’t think anyone is as obsessed with my own music as much as I am! LOL. Not to say it is the best music, but it is the music in my life I am the most invested in, fascinated with, involved with, emotionally intertwined with. Usually when you zoom into someone else’s music, you start to get to the pixels and then things become blurry and less detailed. With my own work, I feel like I reach that quantum level much, much later in the process. Even down to the very word or note or single percussive *bonk* there seems to be information there. Emotional, philosophical, etc., information.
With Fire-Toolz, I’m waiting for someone to say “Field Whispers… are you talking about the Unified Field? What is the ‘crystal palace?’ What is the significance in the ‘X-1’ in ‘Skinless X-1?’ Is ‘Skinless’ referring to that death metal band, or is it something else? How does that apply to the album’s message? What does ‘Interbeing’ mean? Who invented the term? How does it relate to the lyrics on that album, or the cover art? What is the ‘Passageway To Meeting Areas?’ What are ‘microtubules’ and how do they apply to this song that seems to be about your dead cat?'” Nope nope nope. This stuff simply does not come up. I’m going to have to write a book, or let it go. The deepest it tends to get is “what the fuck does the soccer ball mean?” LOL
It’s okay though! I don’t blame anyone for glossing over anything. It’s really far too much to deal with. I think the music I make can be consumed in simpler, less-invested ways. It works fine in playlists and compilations and stuff. But there is definitely more to it than meets the eyes and ears and all that. There is one person I know who likes to message me occasionally and really tear into certain aspects of the music. But other than that, I feel like it’s pretty common to be perceived as a “angry vaporwave fused with metal, songs about dead cats and spongebob, cheeky and ironic muzak-core for millenials.” LOL. Can’t say I feel good about that, but I can say I’ve largely let it go, and understand why it is that way.
IH: All of your projects are related to each other. MindSpring Memories is your vaporwave baby. Nonlocal Forecast is your ode to progressive jazz fusion. Angelwings Marmalade seems to be a place where you can kind of just unwind a bit and make some noise. Fire-Toolz is the ultimate amalgamation of the lot of them – plus a healthy dose of 90s screamo. I’m wondering: If one was taken away (for instance, let’s say you had never decided to embark on the Fire-Toolz journey), would you imagine the others to be vastly different? The same? Not exist at all? The premise of HU, of course, has me thinking about such things.
AM: You are 110% on the money with your interpretation! If Fire-Toolz didn’t exist, I would just have more musical projects. Fire-Toolz sucked up a number of old projects. This is how my projects come to be, and dissolve. Certain ones consume others, or invalidate others. Sometimes a project will fill the void that 4 smaller projects were filling. Sometimes a project will end, and a few will spring up in their place, separating some of the aspects of the original project into their own boxes.
For example, because Fire-Toolz exists, I don’t need Power Windoze, Inappropriate King Live, Dementia & Hope Trails, and a number of other old projects I was doing. However, I can’t dive deeply into any one vibe for any long period of time because the nature of Fire-Toolz is variety and juxtaposition, and I don’t want Fire-Toolz to be sample-based rather than occasionally incorporating samples. So that is why I have projects like MindSpring Memories, Toad Computers, ᴡ ᴇ в s ɪ ᴛ ᴇ ツ, and Apk ♀ ᴎᴇᴛ ☯ Ltd℻! Though you might say, why does Nonlocal Forecast need to exist, if Fire-Toolz exists and shares so many of the same elements? Well, I needed a place for the new age and fusion prog sounds to exist without the sounds of the universe malfunctioning and breaking. I had to create these “safe” albums, where nothing is going to jump out and get you. You can relax. Fire-Toolz is like a full mirror of me, whereas the other projects I have going right now are just pieces of me.
For another example, when I first started working on free-improv noise & experimental music in the mid/late 00s, I was collaborating with others, playing guitar and doing ambient soundscapes, working with pedal feedback and electro-acoustic stuff, working with computers, using samples, etc., etc. After a year or two I split the project up into 5 different ones! One moniker for collaborations, one for computer-based experimental music, one for guitar drone/ambient stuff, one for harsh noise and heavy industrial beats, and another for manipulating other artists’ music. I felt drawn to sticking with single themes for a while. Sounds complicated, but it’s been a fun journey watching things arise and dissolve, consume and give birth, etc.
IH: When it comes to your laudable technical prowess, I’m curious about which genres of music (or if you want to get specific, which artists/bands) have best prepared you for tackling these intricate Nonlocal Forecast pieces? I only ask because I know – from my own personal experience – that skill can originate from strange places. Something tells me you’re not going to say other prog jazz fusion stuff (or at the very least, it won’t be the only influence).
AM: It’s interesting that you’d entertain the idea that my inspiration doesn’t come from the type of music I create. You’re right and wrong there. With Nonlocal Forecast, I am absolutely one million percent influenced by other proggy jazz fusion and new age music! For sure, there’s no doubt. That is 80% of what I listen to, day to day. If I were making some kind of meme music then I could see it being the case where I don’t even like the type of music I’m creating. But that isn’t true here. Your guess would be more accurate with Fire-Toolz… because like I said, 80% of what I listen to is fusion and new age stuff, and lots of what you hear in Fire-Toolz seems a lot more modern and/or aggressive. But that is just because throughout my life I’ve listened to so many things, and fallen in love with so many styles. I have a rich history in metal, industrial, emo, trance, noise, etc. I can tell you this, though… what is more influential to my music than any other artists, is weather patterns and nature.
IH: The amount of quality albums you’ve released these past few years is staggering. I know you don’t do much Angelwings stuff anymore, but otherwise you seem to be pretty involved in all of your other projects. I also know that you don’t like to leave anything unfinished. So, my question is: how organized are you in terms of finishing albums? Do you just solely work on a Fire-Toolz album until it’s complete? Or do you just work on everything all at once?
AM: I definitely don’t like to leave anything unfinished. I did find a track I was working on a while ago that I stopped working on, only because I dragged it to a folder I don’t go into much. I really don’t like it, but what I like to do with songs I don’t like, is work on them until I do. And if I never get to that point, I will export the stems or multi-tracks from that piece and sample from it later.
I am extremely organized when finishing albums but I’m also the type to need variety in order to not go insane. So I am usually working on multiple projects at once. That isn’t disorganization to me at all. I just do what I feel I want to do. I just work on what I want to work on in that moment. And eventually, things get completed. The way things have worked out the past few years though, is that I will concentrate on either Fire-Toolz or Nonlocal Forecast, because those projects are very involved and require lots and lots of work. But I will still produce MindSpring Memories work intermittently, because sometimes I just feel like going sample hunting and making some dreamy, beautiful 20 minute song. It’s so intuitive that I don’t even realize it’s intuition driving any of it. I feel like so many struggles artists have creating work could just be resolved if they’d just do what they feel like doing and stop worrying about what makes sense on paper.
IH: I wasn’t able to find any live Nonlocal Forecast performances online. Is this something you’d ever consider? Even better – would you ever consider forming a live band to perform? Or would that just kind of kill the computer/MIDI aspect of the sound?
AM: There’s something you need to understand about me. I cannot shred on a keyboard. I’m a pretty good guitarist and an even better drummer, but I can’t play a lot of the solos that are on the Nonlocal records. I sequence that stuff with MIDI, production techniques, and mixing. Musicians may look down on this, but I find it much more satisfying to be able to create a piece I love, than to be able to play all of it in real time without making mistakes. It’s the same with graphic design, even photography. We’re using tools to do things we can’t do with our hands and physical objects and substances. Luckily I can play 95% of the drums on Nonlocal records, but because I spend so much more time at the computer than I do at the drum set, I’m rusty as hell.
I’ve grown up carrying an ENORMOUS amount of guilt around the idea that I stopped playing drums in a super dedicated and serious way. I even feel that about guitar, and any other instruments I can play decently, in which I’ve fallen away from. But the thing is, I’m happier this way. I’m happier because I can make more of the music I want to make, more quickly, more easily, without actually bypassing any of my own creativity or ideas. If I want to write a really complicated song, I don’t have to know how to play it on the keyboard in order to compose, mix, master, and release it! That is soooo fucking cool.
All that to say this- I’d do a live Nonlocal set if I could play drums and have hired musicians play the other parts. (I could do guitar too, but the guitar parts only occur occasionally so I’d be standing still a lot.) It would take an excessive amount of time, money, and resources, that I don’t have to find 2-4 musicians who can play old sought-after digital synths as well as occasionally sax, electric bass, etc. And I don’t really know how bad I want to do all that anyway. I don’t place as much significance on live shows as others do. I do love them but I don’t personally thrive on playing them. So I am okay with not performing this stuff live. But who knows! Maybe some day. I don’t think it would kill the computer/MIDI sound. Or, maybe it would, but I wouldn’t mind. It would be a treat to hear those songs realized by humans.
I was asked once by Com Truise to join a tour of his doing Nonlocal. I simply could not pull it off, so I offered Fire-Toolz and never heard a response. LOL.