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Following the debut release of Cognitive Shift Recordings’ Overview Effect, I asked Roger Goula a few questions that gave us a deeper insight into the influences of the musician and the production of the record.

A London based composer and multi-instrumentalist, Roger Goula studied classical guitar in Barcelona and graduated in both music composition from Goldsmiths College and in film music from the National Film and Television School. Inspired by regeneration and ornate music, his masterpieces implement intricacy through the repetition of minimal elements and emotional conveying touches.

Overview Effect stands as Roger Goula’s first album. The result is a delicate and beautiful fusion between modern classical and electronic music and a collective effort that is both timeless and awe-inspiring. It is this experimental blend of classical chamber and orchestral music with electronics that sets the tone for the record, and as such one can hear influences from the likes of Monterverdi, Reich and Aphex Twin.

“All of the three composers you’ve mentioned have always had a great influence on me. However, when writing this album there was never a conscious thought of writing a piece that would resemble anyone else’s work. My only intention was that I wanted to be honest with whatever came out and then be truthful to the material, driving me into places I wouldn’t have initially thought of. It’s interesting how some of the music I carry deepest with me somehow came out in a Roger Goula shape. I embraced it all.”

With the influences being evident throughout, the inspiration behind Overview Effect is key. The album is based on the psychological shift that astronauts experience when viewing Earth from a distance.

“I have always been fascinated by the universe and space. I believe that philosophically thinking about what lies beyond our planet makes us better understand our human condition. Of course the human condition itself alters the way we perceive the universe, so that’s why the concept of the overview effect interests me so much. It is a human reaction to space and the universe, and that for me related to music straight away. The important bit here is that instead of looking away, we are looking back from away. That was a game changer, as we’re putting our planet in real universal perspective. I believe music can have the same effect so I thought it was a fascinating theme to use for this album.”

One may then wonder how to approach the reflection of this within the record. “There were some compositional and production decisions based on the concept of the overview effect. Generally speaking, all the acoustic instruments are close mic’d and in mono, whereas all the big electronics are wide. Somehow I relate the acoustic sounds to ‘earth’ and the electronics are processed acoustic samples to the ‘universe’. There’s always a dialogue between the two but at the same time one compliments the other compositionally and counterpointistically. I didn’t want the electronics to be a bed for the acoustic instruments as for me they all coexist equally.”

Following a compelling performance in the basement of Servant Jazz Quarters, Roger Goula’s live shows are performed with string tercet borrowed from the 12 Ensemble in what is an intimate presentation. His conduction of electronic live shows act as a modern progression on traditional classical music.

Yes, sometimes I feel like a baroque composer conducting my musicians, but instead of having a harpsichord I have a laptop and a couple of guitars. It came about this way as it was the most practical way for a live set up – it wasn’t really intentional. In the live show there’s a certain amount of flexibility with the musicians as all the music is divided into clips and loops, so I need to let them know when to jump to the next event on their sheets. I think I found a great way to interact with the musicians and at the same time perform the album close to the recording. I think it works great!”

2016 is a milestone in Roger Goula’s career, with the debut album Overview Effect showcasing the composers’ immense talents, and resulting in the fabrication of one of the most beautifully orchestrated albums of the year. With such an impressive record being Cognitive Shift Recordings’ first release, we asked if we could expect similar things from the man himself and the label in the future:

“It’s still early days for me so I can’t really tell but I am sure there will be more from Cognitive Shift, and I would definitely love to do more with them! I’ve secretly started to think about the next album…”

You can order Goula’s debut effort over at the label’s website.

Words by Matthew Barlow

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