In 2013 Impose declared The Mallard’s swan song LP, Finding Meaning In Deference, as the Best Album of the Year and markedly “doomed to colored by the circumstances of its release.” By the time Castleface Records had pressed the illustrious LP, Greer McGettrick had parted ways with her bandmates, The Mallard was no more.
In a roundtable interview with The Believer Logger, McGettrick said she tends to consider herself an artist that plays music. With that philosophy in mind, her new project as Eline Cout was a blank canvas across several mediums, presenting McGettrick with the artistic freedom to curate entirely. Her first album as Eline Cout is entitled 13 Pieces, and will be released on Bay Area boutique label, Pretty Penny. The label specializes in small runs of 100, in which every pressing is unique.
As Eline Cout, McGettrick explores her intuitive measures to counter boredom and the elusive task of capturing inspiration in the moment. 13 Pieces is comprised of sound collages, roughly 50 to 60 pieces originally, made by McGettrick on a 4-track as she rekindled an appreciation for the simple process of demoing, over the laborious grind of perfecting a proper album. The packaging suggests 13 Pieces is to be “listened to loudly in one room, while working on a monotonous task in another.”
In making the recordings that became 13 Pieces, what was the process? When did a loose inspiration for Eline Cout begin and how did it transform over time to the completion of this album?
While writing the last Mallard album I was listening to a lot of Wire, from there I started listening to Bruce Gilbert, Dome, Duet Emmo, Cupol (all members of Wire) as well as early Industrial, Minimal classical and Drone. Now I’m on a total classical kick, I started taking cello lessons a year ago and I’m listening to the likes of Shostakovich, Arvo Part, Penderecki, Bartok (though I’m nowhere near being able to play like that).
I’ve always demo-ed on 4-track. Not having the pressure to write the typical verse/chorus structured songs took away a lot of the constraints I had made for myself in the past. I also found the less I tried to perfect an idea and the more I let it occur in it’s natural state, closest to its genesis, the more genuine it felt. I think in whatever medium, ideally we’re always chasing that initial (often enchanting) idea/concept (or at least the response we had to that spark of the idea/concept). Every time I would re-record an idea, I felt like I was making a xerox and thus sucking a bit of the saturation out of it. So I just kept “demo-ing” these short pieces without re-working them into songs. It was a bit more of an exercise than a project. I’d play an instrument for as long as I felt, layer it with whatever instrument I hear next, and if it needed more, I’d add more.
But if it felt done, I’d leave it and let it exist as the choices that I made in that moment in time. There’s of course nothing new about this process, but it was personally satisfying writing this way after feeling like there were fewer options with Mallard songs. After about two or three months I had about 11 tapes (maybe 50, 60 pieces). I wasn’t sure what to do with them so I gave a mixed tape of about 25 to my friend Desmond Shea who narrowed it down to 13 sequenced pieces. Those 13 best represent the feel and broad scope of the project. My friend Rob Jackson mastered them and I passed them on to Moses Montalvo who runs Pretty Penny who said he’d love to release them. It was by all means, the simplest and smoothest overall process.
Music journalists tend to abuse and misuse the term “soundscape” to no end. Do you think the term applies to the experimental works in 13 Pieces?
I agree that they are soundscapes. To me, a soundscape conveys a sense of a journey or movement, nothing has to change necessarily, but when the piece is finished you have a feeling that you’ve traveled from a point A to point B.
Do you see Eline Cout as becoming a side project/outlet for experiments or a project that you cultivate and hone as your next musical lifeblood (so to speak)?
I really don’t know which direction I’m going, I still enjoy writing verse/chorus songs with a hook, but as of late, with cello, I’m really interested in experimenting with textures or sparse melodies and harmonies. In addition, I’m learning more about music fundamentals and theory. I feel like a whole new world has opened up.
Releasing an album on Pretty Penny is a serious creative undertaking, given your past work with silkscreen and woodcut prints I take it the grid idea your design? Please tell me more about the grid design and the inspiration.
I really like Moses’ requirement that all the artwork for Pretty Penny must be unique. This puts more of an emphasis not only on the relationships between the music and the art, but also between the artist/musician and the person purchasing the album.
A lot of my art is inspired by grids so it seemed like a natural way to pursue an edition of 100 albums. The front cover is a woodcut of a grid with 10 by 10 squares. The first in the edition has all 100 squares. Each album after has one square taken out randomly, this sequence leaves the last album with only one square. All albums come with a numbered small bag of wood chips that represent the square that was taken away.
Eline Cout’s 13 Pieces is available for preorder at Pretty Penny.