059 - Tarotplane

I first head Tarotplane, the performing alias of Baltimore native PJ Dorsey, in late 2017 upon discovering his full length for the wonderful dutch label Lullabies for Insomniacs. 358 Oblique utilises a format I have always loved, with each side featuring a single extended track that showcases the guitarists ability to stretch the boundaries of his primary instrument within the confines of his own brand of ambient psychedelia. The format allows for wide open spaces, a looser structure and a complete lack of urgency that fits well with Dorsey’s ability to paint broad sonic vistas through drone, melody, samples and distorted guitar.

In a sense it should come as no surprise that this is the output of a man who has spent much of his life exploring the world of psychoactive music, with influences including experimental European pop legend Franco Battiato, prog giants Pink Floyd and early era IDM. When I spoke to PJ about producing something for Métron he shared some unreleased works with me and we came to the conclusion that a mixtape of just his own works would be a fun option to explore and allow him to share some experiments and unpublished creations.

With two excellent new records on there way, including the follow up to 358 Oblique it’s fun time to hear the work that PJ has been putting into developing his sound, exploring new techniques and further expanding his own sound. Though his guitar work shines through on many of the pieces here, It’s often hard to tell where the guitar starts and ends as Dorsey envelopes his strings in layers of distortion, effects, samples and synth work. Across this excellent and diverse hour of his own musical offerings we’re invited on a vast spacious trip towards the outer edges of the ever expanding universe of otherworldly guitar music.

I spoke briefly to PJ about his musical influences and the use of spoken word samples in music. You can read the full interview beneath the artwork below.

PJ, thanks so much for your mixtape, absolutely love it! Can you tell us a bit about the works you've included here?
Thanks very much! I really enjoyed making it. This is a hodgepodge of stuff that's either currently being worked on for future release, or things that I liked musically but had mistakes or had a lower recording quality that was unsuitable for vinyl release. There are also pieces that were milestones in terms of my recording/technical process that I found important.  Almost all of this is guitar music and I try to push the envelope as far as I can when it comes to new technique or unusual processing.

One of my favourite parts of the set involves a great interview sample/recording, I'm curious to where you picked this up and how you feel this kind of technique can enhance a piece of music?
I was always drawn to things that used either field recordings, or snippets of film, radio or television. A record that blew my mind when I first heard it was by an American artist named Bill Holt under the name The Dreamies. It was acoustic guitar and electronics coupled with recording of news events during Watergate. I love the idea of making little sonic documentaries. I find that it adds something that is really engaging. There is a radio show on NTS London called "Time Is Away" that uses this idea to tremendous effect. One day i hope to make a whole LP in this style. I enjoy it tremendously

When did you start making music and who were your biggest influences?
I started making music when I was 15 or so. I never really got into recording anything . I became really frustrated with my playing so I stopped for over a decade. I only really started making music for people to hear 6 or 7 years ago. My biggest influences are Pink Floyd, Popol Vuh, Franco Battiato and Bourbonese Qualk. After listening to Tarotplane some of these would be more obvious than others but they all played a big role. Brian Eno is also very important.

You've got a couple of records in the works (I've heard both and they're excellent) can you tell us a bit about these releases?
I have a record coming out on the fantastic 12th Isle label from Glasgow.  That record has a more varied approach and I am very lucky that one of label partners Fergus Clark took the time with me to help create something that may not have happened organically. One side has a more electronic feel than my previous work that veers towards ambient techno at times. I also have a split LP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond with the amazing Prana Crafter (William Sol). That should also be out sometime next year.  Will and I are good friends and I played on a track for his last record "Enter The Stream". We have a side each. The BBisB release is more of a guitar heavy psych record that i made with my friend Jack Moore on synth. Jack is involved in all Tarotplane activities either as a musician or helping me to sculpt my tone and general overall sound. He is a great listener with excellent ears.

I feel fortunate that I have 2 LPs in 2019 that show different sides of what Tarotplane can be.

Psychedelic is a word often used to describe your music, what does that word mean to you and how you create sound?
I have a broad definition of psychedelic. To me, Throbbing Gristle is as psychedelic as Ash Ra Tempel. Groups like Future Sound Of London or Boards Of Canada have played as much of a role in my sonic perspective as Hawkwind or Amon Duul 2.  One of my goals is to fuse the various strains of "Head" music together. For me, i equally enjoy spending time playing loud through big amplifier, echo unit and fuzz box as I do learning about granular synthesis or new ways to use software to alter my guitar tone. I am always trying to find the sonic and aesthetic commonalities in "psychedelic" music and blend them into something that becomes Tarotplane.

Any musical recommendations for us, something perhaps our readers might have overlooked?
I have recently discovered the music of M.A.L who is a Belgian guitarist that made absolutely outstanding cosmic guitar music in the 70s that sits along side the works of Achim Reichel, Gunter Schickert, or Manuel Gottsching. He has a very interesting backstory. It is a amazing to me his work has been hidden for so long.

I have also really gravitated back to the work of Suso Saiz. He is a great example of how to make the guitar compelling and interesting. He also inspires me because he continues to expand and experiment as he grows older.

All music by Tarotplane.

Métron Records 2018. Hampshire, UK.