Musicians can be shy about citing their influences. Not Lynn Avery.
After a half-hour phone chat with Avery, the creative mind behind the instrumental project Iceblink, I could compile a fully annotated bibliography of the sounds that inspired her January release, Carpet Cocoon. She tells me of the hours of omnivorous listening and obsessive digital tinkering that went into crafting the electro-pastoral concoctions that have proved to be an ideal soundtrack for a year of indoor isolation, as simple and comforting, as, well, rolling yourself up in a rug.
Avery started Iceblink as a side project while still playing in the trio Xylophone Jetty. “I was really interested in the sound of space-age rock, like Broadcast and Stereolab, and the kinds of things that inspired that movement, what they were listening to, these experimental art-rock bands from the ’60s and BBC in-house sound production.”
That was just the beginning of the trek that led to Carpet Cocoon. “From there I started discovering all these blogs that just ripped vinyls and cassettes and collected experimental music from across all sorts of cultures—Ethiopian TV, Japanese ambient from the ’80s, the Blacklands folk movement, this British band Woo.”
And on top of all that, there was the modern music that echoes through Avery’s work. “Newer ’90s and early-aughts hauntology-inspired music, things like Burial, artists who are inspired by the haunting of a nostalgic sound, not from any certain decade but it just sounds generally nostalgic, or like it could have lived in some era in the past, while feeling simultaneously like a present echo, or like a ghost of the past.”
Avery constructed all this with the aid of flautist Mitch Stahlmann and saxophonist Cole Pulice (who’s made a name for himself in Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Bon Iver). The three musicians also work together as LCM. “We improvise electronic and wind music together, try to create these systems where we’re feeding back into each other’s instruments,” Avery explains. “We’re basically constructing one big instrument that we play together.” (That trio has an album called Signal Quest coming out at the end of October, Avery says. “If you like Iceblink, you’ll probably like this, because it’s the same three musicians.”)
The working process was different for Carpet Cocoon. “For Iceblink, I was collaging these takes that Mitch or Cole did for me,” says Avery. “After I had recorded a bunch of takes I would move the snippets around, layer them on top of each other or even re-pitch them and do all this fancy, futuristic re-editing. There’s a sort of post-improvisational aspect to it. They would create these melodies and I would restring them and weave them together with a certain song I had in mind.”
Avery instructed Pulice to “play the saxophone like it’s a clarinet.” Now she says, “I don’t even know what that means. But he did it. He did exactly what I wanted him to do.”
For all the work that went into it, though, Carpet Cocoon never sounds labored. “I wanted to create something homey and comforting,” Avery says. “Iceblink grew out of individual experiments with sampling sounds and then trying to re-create the sounds on my own until the ‘bedroom folk’ aspect of it took over.”
With her gig doing sound at Moon Palace on hiatus, Avery’s working out on her parents’ farm in Afton and charting a course for Iceblink’s future. Avery hopes to do something different with Iceblink each time, and is already imagining tracks with “John Cage-like string arrangements, very polytonal, like really rich, with tons of harmonies, even adding a choir or something. Dense, harmony-rich songs. But ghostly at the same time.”
You might not hear that music first, though, because the next EP Avery has slated will probably take a different course. “Something more synthesizer-based, moody Italian film score combined with early Cluster and Krauty electronic bands, these soundtracky songs.”
Whichever direction Avery pursues, she’ll likely have theoretically and sonically road-mapped it far in advance. “I will talk it out to anyone who will listen to me for more than five seconds,” she says of her music. “What I love about this project is, it really is me just nerding out, geeking out about my process. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Why would anyone even listen to this?’ But I somehow get people to ask me ‘Where did this sound come from?’ Their mistake, because I will tell them exactly where it came from.”