In this weekly column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in the Blank.
"Some people don't see the appeal of drone, and it's true it's not always compelling listening. Still, it affects you. Think about the sound inside a pressurized airplane cabin, or the way things sound underwater, and you'll know what I'm getting at," says local artist Travis Bursik. Armed with a guitar and a few components used to layer sound, Bursik molds music that might be best heard in tandem with meditation. And he has no illusions about this style of performance.
"Part of the idea is that people don't have to pay attention. You know that moment when you catch yourself in a kind of reverie, just staring off unfocused into the distance, oblivious to your surroundings? That's the goal. I want the audience to pull inward during the performances, to have a chance to be alone with their thoughts, whatever they may be," Bursik says.
By using repetition and a slow-moving sense of gradual change, Bursik's live performance feels like an attempt to slow time, or at least to make the listener fully aware of its constant passing. Although his approach is careful, almost delicate, he can break through and capture an audience's attention, as shown in the video below:
Bursik first started recording music in his bedroom via a four-track recorder gifted by his father in 1995. Instead of crooning via acoustic guitar or going the punk-rock route, he opted to experiment:
"I'd record the rain or the ceiling fan or the noise between AM stations. I'd play remote controls through my guitar pickups. My friends had a tape label and we would put out our records. They were all basement and bedroom four-track projects and we would dub them in real time in runs of ten or twenty. I spent a lot of time at Kinko's," Bursik says.
His newest endeavor, Slow Milk, is a solo effort focused on guitar music. Through use of a looping pedal, Bursik builds layers that sustain indefinitely. He applies a reverb effect to thicken and expand the tones, getting the most out of very few notes. This style of music is best described as "minimalist," as it follows a basic set-up, but each artist has their own idea of restraint and attention to detail.
Most musicians draw inspiration from favorite bands or albums, but Bursik credits his current approach to the Philip Gröning film Into Great Silence: "It's about monks, and while it's not a 'silent' film, there is no dialogue, no music, no sound effects. It kept me grounded, and the goal was to play along to this film without disrupting it too much."
Slow Milk is currently available through Bandcamp, but a limited-edition cassette version is set to drop later this year, courtesy of Chicago-based label Already Dead Tapes.
Bursik is a busy guy, as he also works as one half of the electronic duo Ou Où. He and bandmate Patrick Weston have received many accolades for their work, including RFT music awards for Best Electronic (Eclectic) in 2014 and Best Experimental in 2013.
Ou Où is also set to release a cassette tape later this month. The release show features the duo playing alongside Skull's Mind and the Chicago-based Fielded at the Luminary Center for the Arts on August 29. Bursik plans to follow up that show with a proper release party for Slow Milk later in the fall.
Read on as we ask Travis Bursik to fill in the blanks on subjects like the St. Louis music scene and post-show grub.
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