Lucciole is the new album by producer and multi-instrumentalist Mohamed Ashraf, known as Pie Are Squared, an artist whose past forays in the world of ambient sound are some of the best examples of this genre by musicians from the Middle East. Lucciole though is a different beast all together, a departure from his previous work, and that has a lot to do with how Ashraf approached its creation, and a tip from Ableton.
Taking inspiration from the Ableton-published book Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers by electronic producer Dennis DeSantis, Ashraf decided to embark on a project of attempting all 74 strategies in 74 days. The result was Lucciole. Ashraf spoke to 3/4 about the novel approach and how it ended up as a full-length album (and more).
3/4: I understand there was a very interesting process behind the creation of this album, can you give some background on this concept and how it led to the development of the album?
Pie Are Squared: 74 in 74 was born out of necessity really, I had just moved to Italy and between learning the language and looking for a job I was completely devoid of inspiration to make music, so I needed a push, or rather a shove, in the right direction. During my search for that push and amidst myriad failed attempts, I found that Ableton had published Dennis DeSantis’ “Making Music”. The book has 74 strategies regarding starting a song, progressing and finishing it so I decided to tackle one strategy a day and blog about it, hence 74 in 74.
Initially the plan was to end up with an EP’s worth of music and release that, the fact that I ended up with enough releasable material for a full length and an EP was a pleasant surprise. The album developed literally as the book developed, you can trace each song back to its to origins, how it started, changed, progressed and ended with the blogs’ progress.
How did this new Ableton-inspired approach affect the composition process and final sound? This album does sound rather different from your previous work to our (middling) ears.
Well that shift in sound was equal parts intentional and timing. I’d like to think that if I had started the project a week earlier or a week later, this album would’ve been very different. That’s the unintentional bit. The other bit was that I have been wanting more and more to make shorter songs and I wanted to take my music to more electronic grounds.
How 74 in 74 affected the composition was that it completely reversed my process. I usually sit down and think of an album, it’s ebbs and flows, it’s high points, low points, sound palettes and so on. Therefore, I always have an idea of what I am going to end up with and each song plays a part in that bigger plan. This time, however, I was writing songs, which was a first for me. It was only after finishing the songs and deciding on which ones will make the album did I start thinking about how they’d work in the context of an album, how the album will flow as a whole and so on, so I pretty much had to reverse engineer my usual process. It proved to be the best thing that has happened to me, musically speaking, in a very long time as I was so far out my comfort zone and it was very refreshing.
The album has a very nice mix of electronic/acoustic and digital/analog sounds, how do you decide which to use when?
It all depends on the song and the balance of sounds. If the songs needs something more electronic, it gets that and vice versa. That said, I am lucky enough to have my studio (aka room with all my stuff in it) in my in-laws’ house which is in an insanely beautiful spot in the countryside, surrounded by fields and overlooking a river, so I had so much source material in terms of sounds that it was almost impossible not to use more organic sounds and field recordings. As a matter of fact, a lot of the electronic sounds on the album like pads, synths and whatnot started their life as field recordings and found sounds.
What next for you on the music front after this release?
In all honesty, no clue. I have a whole lot of ideas at the moment for future releases and not entirely sure when they’ll come to fruition. I would like to release an album that’s just full on guitars and another that’s full on uptempo electronica and I have started sketching some sounds for them, so hopefully I’ll use all this to come up something soon.
You can stream Lucciole on Dandin.