Glass Salt is the product of friendship, musical chemistry, and unmediated collaboration between sound artists and composers Johann Diedrick and Caylie Staples. Diedrick and Staples improvise with voice, homemade electronics, custom software, and found objects, resulting in living, extemporaneous noise pop that will appeal to fans of Broadcast, Grouper, and Takako Minekawa and Dustin Wong's recent collaborations.
On their new album, Greetings, Glass Salt brings rich textures, mysterious sounds, and moments of melodic beauty that drift in and out of focus. You can feel the push and pull between the two musicians as they guide each other through the dark using an unspoken language. Plenty of tactile treasures abound: rhythmic bursts that pop like kernels of popcorn, the digital cackle of a video game ghost, sounds that drift, circle, and dissolve. But make no mistake: there are songs to be unearthed here as well. On “What Would You Say,” each synth note lands with a satisfying, rhythmic punch while Staples’s haunting vocals bubble up through black water. “La Baleine” is a sludgy dirge that finds the pair dragging a box of broken toy instruments through the mud. And the gorgeous “Slip N Slide” evokes the noise pop formula that Broadcast perfected: a fuzzed-out bassline, drums that click with mechanical precision, and Staples’s mournful wail cutting through the fog.
Tune in to a conversation between Justin Frye, Johann Diedrick and Caylie Staples (above), and listen to the exclusive album premiere of Greetings (below).
Who are you and what is Glass Salt?
I'm Johann Diedrick.
And I'm Caylie Staples.
And we are Glass Salt and the release that we are putting out is called Greetings. Greetings is a musical offering that's culled from a series of improvised takes that Caylie and I did together back in 2016 and 2017, recorded at my studio in Greenpoint and Caylie's apartment in Toronto.
Collaborating in Glass Salt is like getting together and making a meal together. We bring in various elements and instruments and then simply respond in the moment and make improvised work live, very much based on our friendship and our musical chemistry.
One thing that we really like to keep in the forefront is this transparency in process when we’re making this music. For us, it’s really an ethos that runs through the music, our friendship and relationship as creators together and has a lot of importance to how we operate and how we want to share our work with other people.
Even though it's a sonic medium, the element of tactility and texture is really important in our work.
Even though it's a sonic medium, the element of tactility and texture is really important in our work. I think we're both drawn to creating sounds that evoke the idea of texture and then we also work with really tactile instruments, hands-on. Even the electronics have a homemade and touchable element to them, so that's a very important part of our approach.
What kind of instruments are you using and how do you use them in this project?
As a musician, artist, and a creator I've always been interested in building my own instruments for musical expression, so when we decided to work together one of the things I wanted to do was take some of these instruments, which are custom software that I've written and custom electronic hardware that I've built, and use this as an opportunity to push those instruments and see what they can be and how they can be used to make music with someone else.
We also picked up some non-traditional instruments like whistle tubes which are plastic tubes that you can spin around your head. We used them on Children of the Valley of the Wind, which is comprised of a sample of us spinning these tubes and then it's being played back musically with this cloud-bursting software to kind of give this very kind of loopy, windy, ethereal backdrop that Caylie sings on top of and we use drumsticks around the apartment to record the rhythm section. I'm also using some electronics to do these very glitchy, percussive backings.
The environment and the playfulness of the environment is a really big part of the response-based process. It's very in-the-moment and about responding to each other in real-time, right at that moment.
What’s the significance of releasing this record at this moment in time?
Johann and I both agree that it does feel like a really beautiful and healing offering to us. I find it's an album that I think people can really listen to while processing things and so it does feel like a good time to put it out there… Also, because it is an offering about togetherness and it's very much about being in each other's space and connection. It just also felt important to keep that moving in the world right now and not to hold that back or delay it.
We had talked about wanting to put out the record even before the pandemic was taking off. I think the pandemic bringing us back inside really sparked some momentum about also then wanting to put out the record during this time because of how I think our feelings, emotions, and temperament from being forced inside really resonates with the work itself.
I think there was this idea of the record being very healing and something that brings lots of relief to us. We felt like right now the record also is very useful for us especially now and we thought it would be meaningful to share at this moment to maybe help other people or to offer this to other people as something that they could also use at this moment.
There really is a despair that comes out of the fact that systems of white supremacy and racism are not just things that affect us physically or in a tactile way, but they really do trickle down to this emotional, psychological damage, which affects me and I think it affects other artists in ways where we don't feel like we can be creative any longer or we don't feel like we can express our creativity to other people, not just because it might not be the right time, but I think also because we're so distracted in the moment and our energy is being put towards other things. Toni Morrison talks about racism as being a distraction from the kind of beautiful moments in our everyday life that we really should be spending our time around and there's a real case to be made that white supremacy and racism have a distracting effect. I don't want this moment to result in me feeling like I can't create or that I can't share my creativity with others, so it becomes a very important time for me to put out this record. It really becomes an act of self-expression against a world that is really trying to stifle and silence my creativity and my creative expression.