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The Director's Cut: BON - Pantheon (Track-By-Track Breakdown)

London composition, production and art duo BON break down their debut album 'Pantheon.'
BON

BON

BON, a London-based production, composition, writing, and art partnership by Yerosha Windrich and Alex Morris, have released their debut album Pantheon. BON have contributed to projects on Warp Records, Hyperdub Records and 4AD, as well as having releases with Alxndr London and Dadras. The pair created a visual album that serves as an ode to nature. With that in mind, the LP has an organic and natural feel to it, blending ambient compositions with the occasional classic electronica. They work with composers Laraaji and Maxwell Sterling, as well as another collaboration with Lucinda Chua, whom they collaborated with in the past.

Pantheon is a pretty effortless listen. The pacing with 16 tracks that never dwell too long keeps the project moving, while also allowing them to delve into different influences, sound compositions and melodies using all sorts of gear. For a new track-by-track Director’s Cut breakdown, they went through the album in detail about how collaborations came to be, how various pieces of gear was used, including doing it against the way “you are supposed to,” their cats and much more.

Listen or watch the album, buy it here and read as you go.

Read past Director's Cut pieces

1. Flora
This was a one-take wonder. Melodies were written on Spitfire’s BBC SO harp and then played through a granular synthesizer, toying with octaves, loops, rhythm, and chord structure. It was recorded through the HI-Z input rather than the line input to get a crunchier, weathered sound. It ended up as this rising and falling ebb and flow feeling. We then dismantled the merged parts and ran them through the valve stages of the Thermionic Culture. This was actually the track that gave rise to the philosophy of how the whole LP would hang together. We overdubbed more parts that worked as cyclical pieces of music and then re-arranged the order of those parts.

We wanted to know what the equipment sounded like, not just the instruments. The circuitry in itself is a work of art. Rather than going by the engineer's textbook of getting the best signal down, we recorded them all quietly and boosted the gain using a lot of our outboard compressors. Everything has its own unique hum and hiss that just felt nostalgic. Almost like we’re giving a voice to the unheard workers (the equipment) behind the scenes. 

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“Flora” feels like a hazy summer day, nothing is asking too much. Nothing is in sharp focus, its all easy come easy go - a forever moment of bliss and peace. The swells and builds at the crescendo are almost like the realization that in that moment you’re free - perhaps a realization we can all have at any time. The track is almost breaking up at this point, as if with the full realization of liberation and freedom everything begins to merge.

2. Europa
“Europa” is a more pensive and thoughtful piece, although playful at the same time. There’s lots of pitched glockenspiel on this track. The feel is that of an inner examination or a daydream before you settle back into a cyclical rumination. You can really hear the hiss and hum of the valve stage in the noise floor. There was a story that static is background radiation from the big bang and what better accompaniment is there to a wistful lament. “Europa” is also the name of Alex’s Abyssinian cat (usually called Puff Cat, pictured below) if you watch the video carefully you can see a silhouette of her getting a salmon treat folded into the visual. It’s very subtle and half buried but it’s there for sure.

3. Feronia
“Feronia” is associated with beauty, health and abundance; she is also the goddess of the harvest. We start in a very fragile subtle way with ephemeral granulated autoharp that we stretched and pulled to an almost atomic level of stretching - you can hear the recordings begin to break and the integrity of the sound start to be compromised. Then comes the abundance from the sub bass and the cycles begin loop after loop of sustenance, relentlessly spinning away. Minimal and maximal, side by side. So much abundance that it's overwhelming. We pushed the outboard into the red at this point. The visuals were born of a sound appreciation of Terrence Malik - the pace and feel of his work visually has a calming effect even though the subject matter is existential in nature (well most of it).

4. Veritas with Lucinda Chua
We met Lucinda at an album launch for an artist signed to Warp Records that we were co writing and producing for and she was on the same bill that night. We’d never seen anything quite like what she delivered. She played the cello through a DI and a series of pedals - the sound was fully enveloping and filled the entire space. She made the cello sound like a CS80 orchestra. The energy in the room was electric. We immediately had to talk to her - someone with that kind of command of their instrument, having that kind of powerful non-verbal conversation with it, well, it’s just magic really. It’s why music is important - the essence of why we do what we do. 

Since then we’ve become firm friends and “Veritas” was born out of some of the sessions we had. We’re lucky enough to have also worked on one of Lucinda’s releases on 4AD called Until I Fall. She has an amazing delicate yet powerful approach to her practice. The interplay between space and fullness is masterful in her works.

5. Lucina
Repetition and variation and the subtleties therein make up lived experience. Change is inevitable, the “drips” of the piano part are representative of the visuals that go along with this track, an orchid trapped in ice (yes we froze an orchid in a meter of ice) and as entropy does its thing, the ice melts and you can see the roots dripping with ice cold water. To see a thing of such beauty preserved and suspended like this just gave rise to a track that’s complete yet stunted all at the same time. Moogs and Junos are buzzing away in the background as we let the delays ride out on the piano that was tracked in. This track kind of harks back to a lot of formative music for both of us with DJ Shadow, Portishead, classical and jazz influences. We played this over and over once we finished it.

6. Artemis
We headed into another aspect of our formative tastes and understanding in this track - in our opinion, it’s classic electronica in the purest sense of what we believe that to be. Deep analogue synth, microtonal drones pierced by angular rhythmic manipulated samples layered with synthesizers. The visuals at this point reveal the stayed beauty of the frozen flower. While the drone falls away, like mist burning in the morning sun, a pitched jilted hook is revealed but not ever giving you the same thing twice. If the album were to have an anthem it would be this. Filmed upstairs in the studio the entire place was dressed by Cut Flowers and filmed by our friends at Infinite Film. We literally had a garden inside the studio. It was a fantastic moment.

7. Nanshe
Nanshe was a goddess, the daughter of Enki. Now, there’s a lot of “stuff” on the “internet” about Sumerian mythology - what it means, represents, what it is and or isn’t and what it could be. Personally, we couldn’t possibly comment on any of that, past or present (I’m not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens etc…). What we will say is that we spent a lot of time on YouTube when writing this particular piece of music and the “alternative creation” story presented was truly inspiring and led us to want to create something truly triumphant. This is the theme to a space goddess Asian/Afro mixed race futurism. A piece of music fit for the parade celebrating the return of the creator.

8. Hina
"Hina" was born out of Yerosha playing cello and singing bowls. She was really hitting those strings hard. You can hear the thickness of the tone from the bowing. We used the freeze function a lot on the Eventide Blackhole. A lot of the pads or buses were frozen by reverbs and unfrozen again. It feels great crunching them to a critical mass and then letting them go. As soon as it got crowded in there, we’d ping them back into the track. There’s a thick lushness to that process that you can really feel in this track. The Autoharp was sampled and resampled back in. We chose all the tails of notes rather than the notes themselves - just the idea of notes.

9. Hygea
We made this track with a very good friend of ours, she’s a true visionary. It was actually supposed to be another song but it turned out like this -- a mystical choir chanting, a call of the wild almost. Short and sweet, full, overwhelming and more powerful than you could ever know - timeless.

10. Aya with Laraaji
We had been trying to find solace on YouTube. We gave ourselves up to the winds and whims of the algorithms. We were fed on a steady diet of ambient and new age never thinking that we’d get a chance to work with one of its most prolific pioneers. We started to think about Afro/Asian futurism in music and created a piece that we felt sounded like docking at a space station. It was just a sketch at the time that we happened to play to Yerosha’s A&Rs over at Warp Publishing just to keep them abreast of what we were doing and see if they knew of anyone who might be a good fit. 

When they came back with Laraaji our minds were blown. We were obsessed with Unicorns in Paradise - it’s a piece of music you can fully get lost in, the unrelenting beauty of it. It was almost as if the algorithms had crossed from the computer realm to real life and suggested Laraaji. We sent over our space age demo and kept our fingers crossed and a few days later received a delightful email from the man himself saying he loved the idea and would do something. Much jumping up and down was done that day in the studio. A few days after that we got back an incredible performance, which we carefully folded back into the original demo. 

Laraaji connected with it and loved what we did. It’s almost like magic - it all connected and clicked. We feel very privileged to be POCs and to be able to create music in this ambient space and especially privileged to work with a luminary such as him. Sometimes the universe has the conversation for you.

11. Rhea
Built from the mechanical clunks of the autoharp and underpinned by the tape pitch-shifted sustain of the notes. We wanted something to bring us back from space to the ground again. To head back into the sun the intro guides us into the warm embrace of the analogue richness of the Modal 002 and the clatter of the tuned bowls, a process of creating our own samples and making our own unique instruments with them.

12. Venus with
Maxwell Sterling
We had the pleasure of collaborating with the ever-talented Maxwell Sterling on this track. It’s one of two collaborations on the record. We feel very lucky to work with such a considered and deliberate composer. From the moment you meet Maxwell you’re struck by his mode of thought and fun loving sense of humor. When he plays he seems to channel this thing from another place. “Venus” is part of the output from these sessions. There’s a fragility, joy and beauty about this track and when it was finished it felt like it had always been there. Maybe not had…perhaps music is like mathematics - you don’t ever make music - you only unearth and discover it. It’s always been there in the collective unconscious waiting.

13. Freya
"Freya" is comprised entirely from recorded marimba being pulled to bits. No-one could ever play this. That’s not a challenge, it’s a fact. The most tropical of our intermissions.

14. Hallow with Maxwell Sterling
"Hallow" is our second collaboration with Maxwell. It’s possibly the most nostalgic piece of music on the record, built with rezzy Moogs (the sound of the studio door opening) and Maxwell on bass. It all fell together and felt like it wrote itself. The fullness of the bass and the romantic changes give rise to a beautiful lament. The track invokes imagery of wood paneled 70’s HiFi equipment and mountain views outside a window. This is one of the most unaltered recordings on the album. It came fully formed and as is - we paid it respect by giving it the most minimal of processing.

15. Fleur
We have another cat. She’s an absolute force of nature - a mentalist, like wild raccoon energy crazy. There’s no way you can get much done if she wants your attention - she will bestow unrelenting chaos on whatever you’re trying to do. The kind of cat that cartoonists syndicate the hijinks of globally in every newspaper and magazine. Well, this track is about her - her name is actually Fleur (seen below), goddess of flowers and fauna.

The space the music takes place in is embodied by our other cat Lola (seen below), who is the most chilled, serine animal you’ll ever meet. Some even say she’s the softest cat - in temperament and to the touch.

16. Demeter
This work is all about the counterpoint, letting the effects sing and cleansing the palette. We wanted to end on something pure and honest that exists in its own space.

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