ProtoU & Hilyard “Alpine Respire” Interview


L-R: Sasha from ProtoU and Bryan Hilyard
How two artists thousands of miles away from one another on the same planet can create an atmosphere that can be both intimate and infinite (had it not been for the limitations of the end of a CD) I’ll never know; only that it transcends electronic transmission via the net.  Today we travel from Maine to the Ukraine.
In this case, we present a special interview with ProtoU and Hilyard, authors of Alpine Respire, out now on Cryo Chamber.
Alpine Respire is an incredible atmosphere that presents not the harsh elements of winter but the beautiful….the vast landscapes of untouched snow, solitary walks between snow-covered trees and finding home in the cold.  Alpine Respire is available now on Cryo Chamber and highly recommended.
Special thanks to Sasha and Brian Hilyard for taking the time to answer some questions.
(sorry about the formatting errors.. for some reason the paragraphs                                 refused to separate.)
Alpine Respire is the new release on Cryo Chamber.  First of all, can you kindly give us a brief background on the specific inspiration for the album?
protoU: First, thank you for having us. It’s really an honor! Alpine Respire came out with no initial concept of whatever. I remember listening to Bryan’s music for quite a while and I noticed with both had this passion about creating drones mixed with nature sounds. After some time I discovered his upload on bandcamp called Expanses. Those are two very nice field recordings of nature in forests. I really enjoyed those, been listening them for some time and then all of a sudden patterns for a track started to emerge. I could literally hear additional sounds for those field recordings Bryan had there and we’ve created our very first collaboration track called Nature Abstraction that was featured within the Ambient Online Community compilation. After that we became friends on the internet, started talking about this and that and realized quite fast that we want to make music together. I believe that nature sounds is the true inspiration for this release.
Hilyard: I’d like to add that this project felt almost channeled at times. We decided to really just go with the flow and start sculpting sound.  Nature and our collaborative track Nature Abstraction, is the true inspiration and lifeblood behind this album. I live in a very dense forest helping build up a family homestead so I am completely enveloped in that energy and tapestry of sound. I was excited when ProtoU contacted me about Expanses. Especially since she was an artist whose music I admired. Neither of us knew it would lead to an album. That track was sort of our big bang creatively. When Sasha and I began working on Alpine we quickly knew that it should be grounded and earthy since she also had a love for nature and its creatures along with field recordings from her own adventures. We seemed to stay on the same page the whole time and became focused on immersing the listener in some of the darker and more unforgiving environments nature had to offer. On a more personal note, around this time I was dealing with the loss of both my Grandmother and my best friend, so I feel that the primal reality and fragility of life and death are somewhat captured within.
Where did the name ProtoU come from?
protoU: I believe it was something related to my old cellphone haha. I had this HTC phone some time ago and when I was plugin it into my computer – it said protou somewhere. I quite liked it and decided that I want to be the device 🙂
How did the two of you unite for this collaboration?  Was this in the studio or did you share files via the internet?
protoU: it was via internet of course. we live on the opposite sides of the planet which makes it quite impossible to have a live jam. It didn’t even felt like we needed it. All the tunes where coming out so organically and simple, it’s just magic. We were both so excited and always wanted to make the tune better. Although we maintained control to not over make anything and it turned out pretty good 🙂
Hilyard: Yea because of our distance apart we had to rely on the interwebs. But she’s right; we didn’t feel a need to be in the same room or in a live session. In fact our correspondence was somewhat minimal as well for the duration of production. We were more connected through the music. Even though it felt effortless we both put a lot into each track, detailing and molding the sounds and allowing them fall in and out of the drone work. Not over thinking this project allowed for our end result, which we are definitely both excited and surprised by. It was really great working on this with ProtoU, I feel like it challenged and grew our skills even though it didn’t seem like a challenge.
How did you hook up with the almighty Cryo-Chamber?
protoU: my husband Oleg (aka Dronny Darko) was involved with it first. He had his debut Cryo Chamber album Outer Tehom and really got into the label and it’s aesthetics. He introduced the label to me at that time as well. We both were enjoying it and then had this collaboration album as well as my first presence as an ambient artist called Earth Songs. Simon of Cryo Chamber enjoyed it a lot and singed me for the label as well. I’m still very grateful for all his advice and attitude. They helped me to evolve as an artist and as a person.
What sort of importance did field recordings play in this album and if so, where specifically were they recorded?
protoU: I always enjoyed a good field recording. It’s taking you to another place. I enjoy listening to random captures of sound in different areas of the world. It’s like traveling with no vehicle, except music. Alpine Respire of course has this nature filled vibe and because of that field recordings definitely play a very important role. My sound captions were mostly recorded in the woods of Ukraine and some other countries. Blending those together with Hilyards recordings from the US really gave this album an awesome feel!

Hilyard: Field recordings were a major aspect of this album for sure.  We both had a nice collection to play with from our different locations. When you start looking for sound out in nature, a lot of times it will literally find you. We were able to capture some very dense natural soundscapes and up close encounters with various creatures and environmental conditions.

What’s next for the two of you?  Are there any more planned collaborations or just solo releases?
protoU: Yeah why not. We might get into another theme to get us out of the comfort zone or experiment in the same vein, I don’t know. I really enjoyed collaboration with Bryan and I think it’s just a matter of time when we’ll do something together again.
Hilyard: Yes, I’m pretty confident that there will be future collaborative works. It was really great working with Sasha and I feel any future projects would turn out awesome!
I see there is an upcoming split with Alphaxone.  So if you could talk about that and anything else, that would be great.
protoU: hm not sure what do you mean here. We had an album together but that was in the beginning of 2017.
Editor correction – The album already came out.  Discogs was misleading.  Anyway, check out that one too.  :o)
I heard a rumor you used to be involved with drum n’ bass.  Is that true and what brought you to dark ambient?
protoU: all the rumors are true haha. Me and Oleg are still involved and have a collaborative project called D3Z. It’s a breakcore/d&b vibe. We like to rave with more hardcore and aggressive music when there are proper gigs around and definitely would like to contribute proper tunes to the scene to make kids happy and have a nice gig.
Let’s say someone gave you a commission to create your version of The Four Seasons.  How would you paint this kind of portrait with sounds?  What I mean is what sort of equipment, tones, noises would you use?
protoU: that’s an interesting one 🙂 Never thought of that. 
I think I would paint winter with brown noise probably. I mean when you have this proper with snow and heavy winter weather. You definitely get a more creative mood when nature behaves this way and brown noise is something to meditate on for sure. 
Spring is more of a green, “bass-eh” season for me. It’s that period when you emerge from the snow flakes of winter and hear distant raves coming at you. You are converging towards them as well. 
Summer is a pure red pit. Mostly harsh, hot but also has a lot of water in it. Definitely sounds like 4×4 beat music with a taste of NIN in the evenings. Very open and a period to sort of “change your skin” and go out. Or stay under the conditioner all 3 months and twist drones 🙂 
Fall is the calming one. The LFO of your perception starts to turn the knob less frequently and you’re slowing down and get more focused. More ambient tones in the air and in your head but still a lot of fun.
I also think that these moods can definitely crossfade with each other but I most certainly feel em that way.
Hilyard: I really like Sasha’s perspective on this. For me I might create a long form loopable drone. Because of my personal preference for Fall I would start there with minimal and melancholic  sounds padded by warm synths and light processed field recordings to represent the crisp air. It would then devolve into the quiet darkness of winter fluctuating between deep synth, vocal chants and the sounds of frozen landscapes. Some light piano chords would move us into the warmth of Spring and then the higher pitched harshness of summer with processed guitars/distortion. This was an interesting question indeed!
Early 20th century painter Kasimir Malevich was a pioneer of the Suprematist movement; an abstract area that focused on pure artistic feeling as opposed to specific depiction of objects.  Do you think that’s the case with your music or are you trying paint specific pictures with sound?
protoU: drone is more like paining I agree. Here we mostly don’t focus on something related to music theory that much but on the sound itself, the tones, the color and probably even the taste of the sound. It’s a different level of perception and that’s what I like about drone ambient. It’s timeless music. For me dark ambient today involves a lot of artists repeating one another and the best it can get if it is involved into some sort of media, movies or gaming industry. Drone is more like a manifesto. It creates this special feeling that resonates with you. Music does not owe you anything. It took me a while to realize that while John Cage was telling it to the world for decades. I find it very comfortable to have your mind and ears stretched to be able to pursue different kinds of approach of listening sound. Our world is amazing. You just need to hear it.
Hilyard: Ambient drone music to me is somewhat formless. It’s something that seems like its just always there, a constant with subtle evolution. It’s something that you experience more than actively listen to. It can create another dimension for the listener to explore and because of it’s subtlety the music can be more moving than a dramatic film score. So yes, I believe we are a bit more aligned with Kasimir’s creative philosophy of artistic feeling.
Many many years from now…. a very distant relative locates an ornate box in an old house.  Inside the box they discover a copy of Alpine Respire and something to play the album on.  What do you want them to know about your work and what feelings would you hope they are left with?
protoU: verses of nature dialogs encrypted within an ethereal energy and pressed onto a CD.
Hilyard: Awe, wonder and exploration, a sense of calm in harsh environments/situations.
Thanks for your time.  Please feel free to mention anything else you would like here including any links or Youtube videos you’d like me to include.
protoU: the pleasure is mine Will. Thanks a lot for dope questions. Had a lot of fun answering them for you. Stay cool 🙂
Hilyard: Thank you Will! Really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this project with you and Sasha!
Alpine Respire Track List…
1. Alpine Respire
2. Blood Grass Sojourn
3. Cave Lights on the Bay of Bengal
4. Boreal Distillate
5. Final Refugium
6. Elwha Snowfinger

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