On the 16 of November, XL Recordings will release Spoken By The Other, the first EP by Powell Tillmans. It’s a collection of recordings from two of the most interesting artists in Europe, and one whose short length belies its radical tenderness, sonic language and political ambition.
Oscar Powell and Wolfgang Tillmans first met at the Tate Modern, where Tillmans was programming a series of performances to coincide with his 2017 exhibition. Quickly the conversation turned to talk of a full collaboration, and following Tillmans’s video for Powell’s track Freezer, over the Summer they got into the studio to begin making music. Recording took place in Berlin, London and Turin, with Tillmans’s vocals working in tandem with Powell’s synthetic processes. Rather than a simple producer-vocalist arrangement, explains Powell, “Wolfgang’s voice and my sounds drive toward some sort of shape or feeling together.” These tracked were workshopped live at Berlin Atonal and Club To Club in the second half of 2017, and with no small number of emails and voice files exchanged, these ideas evolved into the final EP this year.
For Powell, working with Tillmans was liberating: “I think a lot of Wolfgang’s work is to do with vulnerability. He’s never been afraid to express that, or highlight it, or lift it up as something worth showing,” he says. “Recording the EP was almost the process of losing the expectations that might be placed upon myself. People have described it as a vulnerable record, and that transparency and honesty is how I felt making it. It made me feel very out of my comfort zone, but I think working with Wolfgang has pushed me to trust myself more. To feel more.”
For Tillmans, whose support for the EU and migrants rights against the rising tide of nationalism has formed an increasingly urgent backbone of his work, the statement is political. “If everybody hardens up in this polarised world, we cannot come out of it in one piece. The solution is not to hit back all the time but make a new better alternative and which is not authoritarian and hard but is so kind, it’s combined into a love song. We can’t let the haters overtake our lives. We must keep on partying; we must keep on loving, and living.”
Spoken By The Other will be available across digital platforms, as well a Single Pressing Limited Edition 12” vinyl on XL Nov.16. Single + video for “Feel The Night” out now. x-l-r.co/spokenbytheother
RA review 3.8/5
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