After spending more than 20 years of his life devoted to lending his arrangement ideas to artists like Sunn O))) on their 2009 record, Monoliths and Dimensions, and Earth on 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, musician and producer Randall Dunn took a moment away from helping others realize their vision and channeled his energies into his first solo effort, Beloved, released via figureight records on Nov. 9.

“When I work with someone, I push them and I’m there to encourage them, and sometimes, I’m a therapist even,” Dunn says, “but with myself, I definitely wanted to make a record that was very emotional to me in where it was coming from. It was a bit lonely sometimes, in the sense that I couldn’t turn to my left and always have someone there to say, like, ‘No, no, it’s good. Keep going.’ I serve that role so many times for people, so for me, it was a challenge. I felt a bit isolated sometimes and even occasionally brought some of my friends in to work on it, which kind of helped with that space. I played an early draft of it to Eyvind Kang, who is one of my mentors; he was really supportive, and that meant a lot to me.”

The creation process of Beloved took Dunn a long time. “It started about four years ago, and it’s been slow. I’ve been working on music for 20 years, but this is the first stuff that I’ve thought, ‘This is something pure that I’ve made for myself,’” he explains. “I felt really connected to it and to the people who were involved. I felt like they were in similar spaces and could really understand the music and lyrics and vocals that I wanted to do.”

“Shahzad Ismaily, one of my favorite bass players of all time, encouraged me to do it,” Dunn continues. “He started this label, [figureight], to make people do solo records who aren’t normally doing them. I was fortunate enough that he still liked it at the end of it. So, it’s been a long process, but in the last two years, it really jelled together—once I moved to New York.”

The gentle encouragement from Ismaily and the affirming creative contributions of past collaborators like Kang, Timm Mason, Frank Fisher, and Zola Jesus were all crucial to the birth of Beloved. “Timm Mason is a longtime collaborator of mine and one of the deepest synthesists—like, in the proper sense of that word. He really understands the Serge synthesizer in a way that is totally his own voice,” Dunn explains. “I worked with Frank Fisher on Algiers, and I find his spirit and his nature and his voice just to be very feral and amazing and soulful.”

“I just wanted Eyvind Kang on there because I think he’s one of the greatest composers alive. Him not being on there seemed like a bit of a crime,” Dunn continues. “And Zola Jesus, I find her voice to be like a knife that doesn’t intend violence, cutting through the fog. She’s a very powerful person too. I think I connect with her on a lot of spiritual things, and it felt really great to have her on it. I was really honored. She came with her contribution really quickly and really understood what the lyrics were about.”

Beloved talks about breakups, loss, relocating from Seattle to New York City, and leaving a comfort zone that included 20 years’ worth of artistic colleagues, collaborators, and coconspirators. “The whole record is related to a feeling of disassociation,” Dunn admits, “[like] when you move to a new place and you’re walking around and you don’t know anyone, or you’ve lost a love in your life or you’ve lost multiple people who have passed away and who you collaborated with. It sort of echoes reveries about moments with these people, or moments that you thought would be in the future but aren’t going to be in the future. The title is very specific. It can be pronounced beloved or beloved, which is how it was intended—Beloved. It’s just really about allowing yourself to be loved and allowing yourself to love.”

Dunn’s strength with Beloved has been in emphasizing the human component in music. “I really wanted to express how I feel about getting older, going through a lot of different changes. I’m a huge fan of poetry and so, for me, it was like trying to sort of rectify the poet in me with synthesizers, using sound in a way that I felt was poetic, and trying to mostly develop a language that’s a starting point for doing more music that I feel like I’ve been working on for 20 years,” Dunn reveals. “I wanted to get much more personal and much more poetic with the sounds. So, there’s a lot of freedom in that, and there’s a lot of pressure in that too.”

Across seven tracks, Dunn explores the various textures and compositional possibilities offered by an array of early digital and analog synthesizers, developed “over 15 years of wanting to create more music the way that synthesizers were originally intended, which is kind of in addition to or in replacement of an orchestra,” he clarifies. “I got really interested in Laurie Spiegel and Éliane Radigue and very moved by the music they made, especially in Éliane Radigue, who’s probably amongst the biggest influences on me. I got really interested in how she’s using this big ARP 2500, and it becomes very personal; it’s still synthesizers, it’s still electronic, but her music sounds so profoundly metaphysical that I was very influenced by that.”

“I wanted to combine sort of something organic and inorganic at the same time to create a world that seems like neither,” Dunn concludes, “and I think that’s something that I’m always trying to mess around with: that whole ‘What’s real?’ [and] ‘What’s not real?’ thing. There’s a very large influence of Philip K. Dick, the science-fiction author, in how I think about music.”

Purchase Beloved here

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