“Spending a day alone in an abandoned village / where a satellite dish / has been haphazardly built upon the bell tower / and radio sounds now replace those of the residents” – these are the words that accompany the Bandcamp page of Lilien Rosarian’s debut 2019 album, a day in bel bruit. The village produces a remarkable forest of sounds, a meld of harmony and unquantized rhythms. As the wind blows, the radio swells, and the tape loops whir along, set into motion by destiny itself, the interdimensional roads that lead to the imaginary place, bel bruit. Not much is known about Rosarian besides her status as a New York based ambient artist, but her work displays talent comparable to the greats in the genre. We sat for an interview with Rosarian to ask her about her life amidst COVID-19, tape loops, and mysterious villages.
Young Fenimore Lee: First off, I just wanted to congratulate you on all the positive attention that a day in bel bruit received from the underground music community. How has that positive attention affected your musical life?
Lilien Rosarian: Well, I'm so glad that people are actually listening and enjoying it! It’s definitely beyond what I expected, so I’m elated about that! It still feels odd to me, since I keep to myself, and this is the first art that I’ve released to the public. It’s bizarre and heartwarming to see people care about something I made locked in my room over a couple of years. It did take me an embarrassingly long amount of time to get everything where I wanted it, mostly because I hadn’t finished any of my projects before this.
Though I’m happy with what I made, I’m now sick of the “environment” of the album, and I want to make sure whatever I do next is significantly different. I wouldn’t describe the album as very serious or dark, but recently I’ve been wanting to make music that’s lighthearted and playful. I’d also like to shift the way I structure songs into something less rigid. For example, I’ve been trying to make the majority of my next album in one project file. It’s mostly a horrifying mess of dozens of tracks, but I feel like it gives me more freedom to make the parts melt together.
Young: How did the concept of an abandoned village producing radio noises come about? Did you think of this concept as you were recording the album or before you started?
Lilien: I pictured the concept early on when I was working on what would become “the bell tower”. I felt like it had this odd mix of emotions, this lonely yet grand mood that I imagined as a centerpiece of some location. Every track is made to feel like a different time of day. Generally, the first half are the daytime songs, and the latter are nighttime. The concept on its own really isn’t particularly unique to be honest, but it helped me give the songs more life than they otherwise would have had.
Young: How did you start experimenting with tape loops, glitch music, collage music, and all the technical aspects of producing ambient music?
Lilien: I would say my techniques are mainly a result of a love for loops and sampling. The main reason I started using tape was because I wanted some kind of hardware sampler, since I was getting tired of staring at my computer screen to make all my music. So I basically just use the 4 track with only cassette loops as my sampler, and those recordings are the basis for the majority of the tracks on the album. My favorite thing about it is how unpredictable the rhythms tend to get, but having them play back in a loop solidifies that imperfect rhythm.
I like glitch music mostly, because I’m interested in sound processing, and particularly simple techniques that can completely change an audio signal when you go far enough. As for collage music, I’ve always been drawn to music that sounds meticulously patched together, yet free and unconstrained (what first comes to mind is The Go! Team or Black Foliage by The Olivia Tremor Control). I’m sad this type of sound isn’t more common.
YFL: What are your favorite ambient musicians? One musician that comes to mind when listening to your album is Emily Sprague (who primarily uses modular synthesizers for her work), in that both your works are strengthened by powerful harmonic and melodic interest.
LR: I appreciate the comparison, Emily’s music is awesome! I think my favorite is currently Foresteppe. I’m not sure how to best describe his music. I’d say it goes between post-folk, loop-based ambient, and field recording collages. It feels very human, with lots of shimmery textures and woozy tape sounds, and it’s always beautiful and everyone should listen to it. Another is sora, who only made one album in 2003 called re.sort. It’s one of the only things that always makes me calm and happy whenever I hear it.
Young: Tell us about your musical origins. How long have you been making music? How did you start, and who influenced you to pick up an instrument?
Lilien: I’ve been making music for around 7 years. I was into instrumental hip hop back then, and most of my inspiration came from artists that had creative uses of sampling. If I had to make rough comparisons, I’d say my early music was similar to The Avalanches, The Books, or Neat Beats. I played drums and piano, but I wasn’t the best at combining everything together (I’m still not). There’s still some bits and pieces that I’m proud of, but it wasn’t until I got into ambient a few years later that I started making stuff that I was completely happy with. I also look up to my brother a lot; he’s super talented, and I learned a lot making music with him.
Young: Do you have any future musical plans that you can tell us about?
Lilien: I would like to release something as soon as I can! I am working hard on it; my music workflow is just kind of a mess at the moment. I’d like to make something that isn’t ambient at some point, and I’ve been (slowly) working on that as well.
Young: Tell us a little bit about your personal life. What are your other non-musical passions? How has COVID-19 affected your life?
Lilien: I just graduated college this semester. I’m trying to dedicate a lot of time to music now, but I also want to get better at coding, visual art, and statistics (I am currently not that good at any of these things). COVID-19 is mostly affecting me mentally. My daily life hasn’t changed all that much, but it all feels a lot slower. I’m starting to get back into good habits and be more productive / exercising more / eating healthier – so it’s going okay.
To support Lilien Rosarian, purchase her music at lilienrosarian.bandcamp.com.