I’ve admired Elisa Ambrogio’s guitar playing in the New England noise outfit Magik Markers so much that I was both curious and tentative to listen to her recent solo album, The Immoralist.
Not surprisingly, the album abides on its own merits as a compellingly original work of avant-garde rock; sinuously navigating the sonic gap of harsh, experimental noise, while toeing the line of dreamy and brooding minimalist pop. The Immoralist does a lot, all without sounding contrived, confused or sycophantically subscribing to the retromania of today’s music. To put it succinctly: The Immoralist is dope. Ambrogio talked with She Shreds about the process of making The Immoralist, and her musical and metaphysical shape-shifting.
What made you decide to release The Immoralist as a solo album?
I wrote it alone, and I wanted to be able to tour without the limits of people with rich full home lives and families.
“I wrote everything on acoustic guitar and in garage band, just producing the layers of sound a bit, in a really rudimentary way: really enjoyable loner all day affairs.”
Can you describe the process of writing and recording The Immoralist?
I spent a lot of time alone last year, and I just wrote a lot. Everyone is a genius alone in their bedroom, so maybe I felt good about what I was writing. I have been working on a long piece of fiction, and songwriting felt like playing hooky—when I couldn’t write, or didn’t feel like writing I would pick up my guitar. I wrote everything on acoustic guitar and in garage band, just producing the layers of sound a bit, in a really rudimentary way: really enjoyable loner all day affairs.
Recording with Jason Quever was great. I love his songwriting, and we had hung out socially a bit so I knew him, but our musical backgrounds and passions are really different. I think we both were pleasantly surprised by the direction working together took; except that he hated my eating schedule. I like to just work; then when the work is done, really enjoy a huge late meal. They need to snack like precious babies.
Do you feel a different connection to the music you have made as a solo artist vs. the music you have made in the Magik Markers?
I was going to say I feel more protective of these songs, but I think that has more to do with my perception of a record before it’s released rather than a different connection [to the solo songs]. These songs feel private to me right now, so I have the connection that they are only mine.
Do you have any specific goals or ambitions with the release of The Immoralist?
I wanted to make a record with the sweetness and the cleanness of old female harmonies and vocal walls of interlocking melodies, but have no quarter given on the presence of a sharp and evil guitar. I wanted to capture that quality of Shaker songs, the sweetness of the hymnal, but also this dense driving energy, stamping, rhythm below the harmonies. Another ambition with this record is to tour as much as possible and to learn more.
If you could shape shift, which animal would you like to become?
I would rather shape shift into a thing. Like electricity or math. It would be probably feel amazing to be math.