Oblik Lines is a unique experimental project from artist and composer Sebastien Gulluni. The creative works in various fields relating to sound design, and his latest EP entitled Call is a unique and captivating collection of compositions resulting from everything he’s learned and experienced over the years. We caught an in-depth interview with Sebastien to find out more about his solo project, his creative drive, what inspires him, what have been his greatest achievements and challenges in his career so far, and much more. Here’s how it went.
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First of all, thank you for your time with this – your music is incredibly interesting, on top of being beautifully atmospheric. It’s a pleasure to catch an interview with you.
It’s a shared pleasure Rebecca! Thank you so much for giving me the chance to talk about the Oblik Lines project and for helping independent artists with your webzine.
You describe the Call EP as an attempt to create bridges between your obsessions for various sounds and musical styles. Where and when did this obsession begin for you – what inspired such an interest in and passion for this type of creativity?
I think it began at an early age. I took my first piano lessons when I was 5 and I believe that children, being musicians or not, passively absorb a lot of complex musical information even at a very young age. I use the word obsession because I think it takes some time to know which music touches you the most. In my case, I can’t say it was a particular track or musical style that made me want to create my own music. This type of creativity comes from an accumulation of musical emotions over the years and a desire to transcribe them in my own way.
Musically speaking, I am very curious and I listened to many different genres of music since my teenage years. In the mid 90s, it wasn’t easy to find music on the internet because music files were too large and the internet connection was too slow. I remember that I borrowed a lot of records from the local media library and it was a very economical solution to listen to tons of new music! I was listening to a lot of classical and electronic music at the same time. I was already fascinated by the writing techniques of classical composers: Bach, Schumann and Debussy, to name a few…
At the same time, I had the chance to have access to a synthesizer at home and I began to compose music with my computer. I was also fascinated by electronic sounds and the creative possibilities of synthesizers. In hindsight, I think classical and electronic music are my strongest roots. Later, when I began the study of harmony, I also discovered the richness of Jazz which is a musical universe on its own. My last major discovery was the minimalism movement during my university years. Some of my favorite related composers are Erik Satie and Steve Reich.
I was born in the 80s and in a pure sound point of view, I feel very sensitive to the evolution of the grain of the sound. I tend to prefer sounds with some human imperfections, especially when the music is produced with computers. What I like to do is to imitate the sound of particular epochs and to make them cohabit in a track. For me it’s a way of using the grain of the sound as a color and I am more interested in combining the colors than to sound strictly like a particular epoch.
How do you begin when crafting a soundscape, is there an emotional backstory to each track, and how long does it typically take you to complete a piece of music?
I usually begin by collecting a lot of melodic or harmonic ideas and trying to forget them during some time… After a few days or weeks, I listen back to these ideas and if I like them enough I will try to find a way to develop a track with them. Most of the time this process is totally counter-intuitive! Some ideas that you really like when you find them can become insignificant when you listen to them back, and on the contrary – simple ideas can surprise you. Of course it’s not always the same scenario. In some cases, I begin with a beat idea. If I am inspired, the melodies come quickly and this way I can finish a track in 3 days. This was the case for Ghost on the Tape, for example, which was one of the last tracks composed for this EP. I was more confident in the sound color I was looking for so the process was relatively fast.
I believe that there is an emotional backstory for most of the tracks, being intentional or not! In this EP, it is more about creating a singular emotional atmosphere and to give the listener the freedom to interpret it and to build his own story. It’s somehow a movie soundtrack that was composed without the pictures but with a singular state of mind as the link between songs.
How do you know when a piece is truly finished?
I think it’s never really finished but you have to know when it’s enough. When you reach that point, then everything you add to the piece sounds unnecessary. Of course, it’s not always obvious so sometimes it’s better to leave the track as it is and go back later to be more objective.
Is there an underlying concept to the Call EP outside of sound exploration?
The main underlying concept in the EP was to combine different aesthetics. When I composed the first 4 tracks of the EP, I wanted to experiment with complex sound processing that involved noise and distortion. I also played a lot with the grain of sounds and harmonic colors. I didn’t really put on any frame or limit when I composed and when it was finished I asked to some friends to listen and to tell me what genre of music does it remind them of. Most of them argued that it was ‘ambient’. Frankly, I didn’t plan to compose ambient at the beginning!
The last track, A Window on Roppongi differs a bit in terms of sound color, and I wanted to use some field recordings I did in Japan. I finished the track after my trip in Japan and you can hear that the mood is different from the other tracks. A lot more lightweight in terms of emotions, even a bit too much to my taste when I listen to it back! So, I decided to keep the track in the EP but as a bonus.
Can you tell us a little more about what it is that you do – your work in sound design and music technology, and how exactly this links with your own Oblik Lines project?
I work in different fields related to sound creation: sound design for sample libraries, composing for music libraries and audio software/patch development. I also teach music technology/production and sound synthesis to other artists. When I have the time, I compose soundtracks for films. The relationship between sounds and pictures is one of my greatest passions!
All these activities are related to sound but when you work as a composer or sound designer for a specific project, a big part of the job is to understand what the whole picture is and to adapt your work so that it fits to the project. Sometimes, you have more freedom but most of the time your job is to translate concepts or emotions into sounds by following the artistic direction of the project.
The Oblik Lines project is totally independent at this moment which allows me to have a lot of artistic freedom. However, what I want to achieve in the future is to open this project to other perspectives by connecting it to other of my activities. The ultimate goal is to convey a personal vision of music through several aspects of sound creation.
As a designer of sound in just about every way – teacher (professor), composer, software developer – what have been some of your greatest creations or achievements so far?
Speaking of artistic projects, I think most artists are always proud of the last project they achieved. Call is my last project and it’s somehow a new experience for me. Before this project, I worked a lot for other artists as a music producer. My role was to give a certain sound shape to the project but the artist was always the only story teller. In this EP I had both roles, working at the same time on the substance and the form so I think it is a more personal and complete artistic achievement.
I am proud of a collaboration I did some years ago to create the soundtrack for a video game. It was the first time I did a whole soundtrack by myself and I learned how it can be artistically stimulating to work with artists from other disciplines. There’s a lot of talented independent studios in this field and that would be really fun for me to work on other projects of this type!
On the more academic side, I am glad to have obtained my PhD because my subject was focused on electro-acoustic music, and I admit it wasn’t easy for me to stay in a frame for more than 3 years! I have satisfied my curiosity during these years and listened to a lot of interesting experimental music. However, I believe that there is too much good music to listen to in a life to restrain to a certain genre. In my case, I am more interested in combining aesthetics than to be a specialist of a certain genre.
What has been the most experimental or challenging project you’ve embarked upon?
Some years ago when I was a student, I was involved in an experimental project which was very challenging because it was also my first live show! At this time, I did a mixed performance with a Butoh dancer. I performed a kind of freestyle electro-acoustic music to accompany the dancer. To compose the piece, I remember that I had only a mic and my computer and I wanted to explore ‘non musical’ sounds. I recorded a lot of found sounds in my small student room and used them as rhythmical elements. I also processed the sounds with my computer in real time during the performance. I was a bit worried about the public reaction to such an experimental musical piece, but to my surprise people were receptive to it! It was a very fun and interesting experience for me.
There’s a beautifully emotional sounding piano performance on the track Process – are you a multi-instrumentalist, and if relevant – what would you say is your go-to ‘organic’ instrument when writing or creating (or perhaps just relaxing)?
Thank you! I am glad that you noticed it because this part came mostly from an improvisation I did when I was trying to experiment with harmonic colors. It was one of the first musical idea of this EP and later I re-sampled this piano part to create the body of the track. I like to melt creative processes together and it was fun to sample my own piano part and to look at it from another perspective, as a hip-hop producer might have used it. The piano is my go-to organic instrument and it’s not only because it’s my main instrument – I really enjoy the endless harmonic possibilities of it. I can also add that in terms of timbre, the piano is really one of my favorite instruments because I feel comfortable with it to express a kind of ‘positive melancholy’.
What do you think it is about music that captivates and connects people so powerfully?
For me, the beauty of music and arts in general is the ability to evoke emotions in human beings. A piece of music can be interpreted in several ways but the music that touches you deeply can send you back to your personal experiences. Instrumental music, for example, can be sometimes more universal than words to express human emotions. Regardless of your mother tongue, you will be able to understand and build your personal interpretation of music – even without lyrics.
How important is live music to you as both a music fan and an artist?
It’s really dependent on the music. As a music fan, I want a live show to be an augmented experience, especially in electronic music because it’s not that difficult to reproduce the sound of the studio version as most of the time there are no live, ‘organic’ instruments. Concerning Oblik Lines, it’s very close to a cinematic experience, so it could be fun to make a live show as a duet with a video artist, someone that is now reading this interview for example!
What’s next for you – any upcoming projects, collaborations, live performances?
Oblik Lines is a young project and I plan to collaborate with other artists in the near future. Some collaborations have already started! I am always open to collaborate with new artists that have something to complement the project and the live performance will come when I find the adequate partners.
Is there anything else you’d like to let people know about yourself, your music, or your plans for the future?
It’s a bit early to talk about this now but I have also some software projects that are connected to Oblik Lines. Concerning the music, I will continue to be curious! The style of Oblik Lines will probably evolve because I get bored easily when doing the same thing twice. Also, I encourage other creators to experiment and combine what they like to make something new. It’s a harder path than to be a follower, but I believe it is worth it. Listening to many musical styles is for me a key to thinking outside the box. Nowadays, it’s really easy to find and listen to many genres of music via the internet, so there is no excuse to not diversify today’s musical landscape.
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A huge thank you to Sebastien Gulluni for the in-depth chat & insight. Download the music via Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify. Find & follow Oblik Lines on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram to stay updated. Visit his Website for more information.