Premiere | Raw Silk, "Argonaut II"
Beyond the veil and vanities of the over-hyped headline news feeds, the city and scenes of Baltimore continue onward as what can only be described as an arguably undefeated and indefatigable streak as one of the world's most crucial and creative multicultural hubs. From the meteoric rise of JPEGMAFIA, Amy Reid, Pangelica, the local GRL PWR collective and other innovative aesthetes—we now turn our focus to the local setting of Druid Hill Park that sets the mystic scene for the world premiere of the Emily Eaglin-directed video for Raw Silk's "Argonaut II". Featured off their debut album for Ehse Records, the duo of Ami Dang and Alexa Richardson blend their eastern strings and dreamy modern progressions with environments of beauty and ineffable enchantment.
The visual begins with the brook trickling element of running water that brings us to the beautifully lush natural splendor of the park's breathtaking environment. Ami and Alexa present a daydream of supernatural wonder where they descend from their shared tree abode to witness a variety of events that are commenced from a treasure chest that is home to an array of enchanted characters. Motifs of silk dress and sashes abound from the dress of the eclectic crew that indulges in elements from spices, vegetables, water, fruits and more that contribute to a collection of colorful richness that is applied to all available blank canvas sources of cloth. From mashing up berries, beets, powdered curries, turmeric and their subsequent juices of abundantly vibrant hues—the four spirits who emerged from the hope chest create a literal illustrious silk road. Raw Silk's Ami and Alexa are then lead down this magical path to be encapsulated within the mysterious realm found in the trunk of charms. "Argonaut II" with its meditative strings finds Ami Dang and Alexa Richardson summoning their own band of heroes from the lesser known dimensions to bring about an array of organic and illustrious beauty to their world. From the holistic ceremonies where a cornucopia of provisions are collected into a sensationally deconstructed and displayed assemblage of arts; the Raw Silk duo is then invited to enter into the chambers of the chest that leads to the lands that parallel the places and thoughts beyond the material world.
We had the chance to catch up with Raw Silk's Ami Dang to talk about all the latest developments, the new visual and more in the following interview exclusive:
Reflections on the creative axis and evolution that propels the world of Raw Silk.
We are both drawn to rich, lush sounds, and also to messing them up or pushing them out of the expected zones. Tonally, rhythmically, we love experimenting with the edges of beauty and roughness, the pleasant and the uncomfortable, the sensual and the cerebral. As musicians we tend toward a visceral experience of improvisation; we want to be connected to each other and with what is happening in the room in that moment.
Meditations on the collecting and crafting involved with the creation of the self-titled debut album.
Our typical process of creation involves finding a raga, or Indian scale, that resonates with us and starting to experiment within it. The pull of different tonalities will bring out different moods, voices and interplay for us. We also love playing with rhythm and may craft a beat of some kind. For this record, we used electronic drum kits for our beats, which offer something for us to bounce off of and around rhythmically on our instruments. In this album, we also employed a drone in several pieces that is inspired by the drone element in Indian classical music, traditionally derived from a tanpura. On most of the tracks in this album, we used a synth in which the oscillators mimic the movements of flocks of birds to create fast arpeggiations—that become ebbing electronic drones—to build an organic, lush, living and shifting setting in which to play our instruments.
Tell us about the making of the visual for "Argonaut II", filmed in Druid Hill Park by Emily Eaglin and the stories behind the symbolic components of silks, spices, fruits, vegetables, colors and an enchanted treasure chest.
The idea for the video unfolded easily in a meeting to brainstorm with our director. Filmmaker Emily Eaglin had a pretty clear vision for something that would be richly colorful and involve natural dyes. We loved the idea of it seeming that there was a ritual of some sort unfolding, with an unknown purpose that drove the cast toward a common goal. Because "Argonaut II" has a watery feeling, we wanted liquid involved.
The phenomenons and phenoms that are currently inspiring you two.
We just recorded a second album! We’ve been inspired by ancient objects and art and how we interpret them—twisting historical sounds and melodies, musical dialoguing on neocolonialism, and greater sparseness and space in music. Our newer pieces are inspired by meditations on the decay and distortion of meaning over time of language and artifacts and the phenomenon that what we think we know about something old (like sound, language, text, and art) is probably not really accurate. On top of that, when one attempts to research something online, most of what we find is unlikely to be historically accurate. In this next album, we use samples, sets of notes (i.e. modes) and text to create musical works that find parallels between the distortion over time of antiquated objects and meaning and the construction of very early musical structures and the sampling of digital media.
Amazing things that are happening in Baltimore right now.
Baltimore is full of people challenging musical, social and political boundaries, and being a part of this community of people is super special and amazing. Specifically right now in Baltimore, DIY venues are making a comeback! Soon after the fire at Ghost Ship in Oakland, the city of Baltimore evicted all tenants from a primarily LGBTQ/POC-occupied artist space The Bell Foundry. DIY spaces had already been waning in Baltimore; this major eviction really scared people and caused venues to cease having as many events in warehouses. Baltimore has had a long history of underground arts culture—Alexa’s grandmother was a part of the theatre scene in the 1940s—and the lack of artist-run spaces significantly changed the scene for a few years. But slowly, events in warehouses and lofts are happening again. They might not go as late into the night and they aren't as packed, but people are coming together to revive this culture, which has been integral to the arts scene here.
Everything that everyone gets wrong about Bmore who doesn't live there, along with future manifestations that are in the works.
People’s first impression of Baltimore is often through "The Wire," John Waters’ films, and/or the uprising in 2015. It’s almost like people don’t think of it as a real city. Visitors always seem to be surprised about the mundane or aspects of it that are comparable to other cities, like stunning architecture. But it’s okay; we like to keep it mysterious. ;)
We are close to finishing our second album but we don’t yet have a plan for release—hopefully next year!
Mantras for the Bmore scenes and the whole wide surrounding world.
Share love, light, truth, and positive energy. Don’t get too caught up with the idea of passing time, but live every day like it could be your last.
Complaining and self-doubt don’t get you anywhere; be proactive. For Baltimore especially, if you want something cool or radical to happen, you’ll probably have to lead it. But you knew that already, Baltimore!
Raw Silk's self-titled debut album is available now via Ehse Records.