Andrew Bayer on ‘If It Were You, We’d Never Leave,’ making an emotional electronic album
Andrew Bayer, a well-oiled album smith with strong ties to Above & Beyond’s Anjunabeats, is setting himself up for a landmark year. With one solid album under his belt and another, If It Were You, We’d Never Leave, out today on the Anjuna label, Bayer tugs at the heartstrings of electronic music fans in an unconventional fashion. Dancing Astronaut took the opportunity to grill the American artist whilst picking apart his latest full-length outing.
For the most part, Bayer is a compositional architect like few of his generation. Educated in Music Synthesis at the Berklee College of Music, his ongoing afflictions with instrumental experimentation and vivid sound mutation characterize the album. The journey from instrumental doorways of “Opening Act 2” to “Closing Act” is a harrowing affair, encapsulating ambient and melancholic soundscapes throughout the 16-track paragon. He claims it isn’t a make or break affair, but this specialized education doesn’t seem to have harmed Bayer in his creative quests.
There are so many people like me that haven’t picked up an instrument in their life that still make amazing music. Those values have shaped my career in a huge way — it literally dictates the way I think about and create music. That has been a monumental center point for me, even more so than the digital and virtual aspects of making music these days, but that doesn’t stop some people getting along just fine.
But in the age of doom and gloom for anything outside of the short-lived singles market, Bayer offers a bullish outlook. “Both albums have been very selfish processes for me,” he laughs, as he admits why the nerves of fueling the full-length format have never really caught up with him. “The format has definitely fallen off, especially with the digital market and stuff like iTunes being the way it is, but that never changes my approach, let alone enthusiasm. The important thing for me is that people are never inclined to skip a track, so to that extent my approach is pretty old school, but it works!”
For If It Were You, the name of the game is samples. Or at least it was to start. Emerging from an initial quest to legally and effectively sample to create stirring new sounds in a fluid format, the record was quickly overhauled by Bayer’s characteristic love for musical evolution. “I love hearing this technique done right and so this was at the forefront of the initial concept for the record,” he explains, painfully aware of the projects time-consuming evolution. “From here it became a much bigger act though. The potential emerged to incorporate live instrumentation and string players throughout the piece, which quickly turned it into more than just a sample-based record. It is nice to just go with the flow and let something evolve like that.”
As fluid of a journey as this 16-track spectacle proves, not even Bayer could escape having to cater to the singles market. Having rolled out early album teaser “Gaff’s Eulogy” and a subsequent preview for “Lose Sight,” Bayer suggests that having to pander to this industry medium is a necessary evil of compromise.
It is never an easy task to start with a full-flowing piece of music and chop it into segments, but we do have a plan and it feels completely right to us all. It was also testing to decide the order of the tracks in the first place. We switched the tracks around loads, but the order we have figured now has stuck to everyone’s hearts. It was a truly romantic moment for me when the pieces came together.
In the age of genre reliance, Bayer’s inability to subscribe to popular mediums is reassuring. Pulling tricks from the playbooks of trip hop, alternative pop, and straight-up modern classical composition, the record remains an inherently tricky customer to box. It’s a refreshing turn to the inexplicable. Between the angelic chimes, subtle vocal stints, and sorrowful strings, Bayer offers sentimental music that is digestible to anyone with a comprehension of the merits of musical creativity. Encapsulated in immediate album standouts “Need Your Love” and “Echo,” Bayer’s intense instrumentation characterizes the entire record, pinpointing the sheer depth of field he’s explored since his last full-length endeavor. But when tasked with the immortalization of his sound, Bayer suggests that there is never room to conform if the record is truly to stand the test of time.
I approach everything I make with fresh ears and eyes, even if it isn’t going to carry my name on it. There has to be a different mindset to make an impact. These pieces have to encapsulate and represent all your ambition and emotions; you are literally capturing the best part of you and projecting it to the world. With singles you can pretty much do what the f*ck you want, it’s a seven-minute snapshot. With albums, you pour your heart and soul into the project with a mind for it to stand on record for life.
One thing is for certain: Bayer is one of the few artists uninterested in exploiting the ranks of popular dance market. He admits that in the scale of things, electronic music has seldom played stimulus to his own creative exploits. “If I am being honest, I always draw inspiration from everywhere except electronic music; that stuff is rarely on my radar. The stuff that really motivates me is indie rock and alternative stuff, plus a lot of contemporary classical artists. Perhaps one-in-ten tracks doing the rounds on my library are electronic or dance orientated, but to my mind those other genres present far more inspiring stimulus.”
There is a good chance that you could sit DJ Shadow and Hans Zimmer in the same room for six months and still not reach the opulent quality of sound embodied within this album. That, simply, is the sound of progress we have come to expect from this new age American master. In looking for room to criticize, one can only fault the fact that a mere 16-tracks is never quite enough where Bayer is concerned, offering yet another wave of anticipation that teases the prospects of one day collaborating with industry idols Thom Yorke and Bon Iver.
As a significant change of pace during a time that some would say electronic music needs creativity the most; harmonious arrangements, ambient instrumental values, and heartrending emotions are the weapons of choice Bayer comfortably employs to assert that the album format is still alive and kicking in the right hands — no A-list collaborations or played-out studio pre-sets required.