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Compilation Artist

A Mangle of Stars is the ambient musical project of Auckland-based composer Henry Bennison.

A Mangle of Stars

How did you get into electronic music? Where did it all begin?

Slightly sad story to this one: I was focused entirely on being a guitar-playing singer/songwriter until my flat got burgled one Christmas and I lost all my guitars and gear. Electronic music was the cheapest thing to start making once I had a laptop again, so that became the focus. I can't say I regret it, I love the endless potential of synthetic and digitally manipulated sound.

Is there one piece of gear that was a real turning point for you?

As above: being forced to teach myself how to make music with just a laptop and a pretty basic DAW really pushed me to develop my creative process.

Is there a particular instrument or sound source you find yourself drawn to?

The human voice, especially the way it's used in a day-to-day, non-musical way. I love to work with recordings of conversations or interviews and even in my most ambient pieces there's usually a human voice in the mix somewhere. Speech carries meaning and emotion with words as well as sound, and the way the two can compliment or contradict each other always inspires me.

What does your creative process look like? Are there particular techniques that help your process?

My process is pretty intuitive: I sit down and start making noises, then I consciously develop anything that sounds promising. Often a fair amount of time passes between that initial improvised session and going back and actually making a track out of it, which I think helps me feel that I'm judging the work more 'clearly'. I've definitely gotten caught up in jam sessions and felt it was the greatest thing I've ever produced, only to go back the next day and be really disappointed. Usually the system works pretty well though.

Do you find that other creative pursuits influence your music?

I think music informs my other creative pursuits more than anything else. I love making music videos or album art to accompany the tracks I finish and want to release. It's a nice change of pace after working hard on a piece of music for ages and it's also a fun challenge to try and express what I was trying to communicate in a song in another medium.

What is the source of inspiration for your latest work?

Everything I experience has the potential to wind up in a song, often I'm surprised by what does. Books I'm reading, films I've seen, things people have said. There's really no way of knowing what will inspire music in me next.

Do you think the town you live in (Auckland) has an influence on your sound or process?

Absolutely. Recently I've produced a series of tracks which are all named after the time/place they were written in and which express how I felt in that time/place. With ambient music especially I find the space I'm in when I'm writing it dictates its form and sound.

What is the strangest or most surprising instrument you have used?

I love Alvin Lucier's 'I Am Sitting In A Room' and I have used his process of recording a sound, playing back into a space and re-recording it, then playing that re-recording into the space and recording that, etc. a couple of times. I find it fascinating that regardless of what sound you start with, what you end up with - after enough repetitions - is the resonant tones of the space itself. In that way the space becomes the instrument you play.

Who do you see as your biggest influence?

I have a really lame answer to this one, but it's probably The Blues Brothers. I grew up in a home where media consumption was strictly monitored and fairly limited, but for some reason my parents let us watch The Blues Brothers as much as we liked. It's the first film I have a conscious memory of seeing and it taught me to love the music, man.

What records caught your attention early on and influenced your direction?

When I was a teenager being exposed to outsider artists like Daniel Johnston definitely taught me that any creative expression you generate is legitimate as long as it's sincerely what you wanted to create, regardless of how it sounds/looks. In terms of ambient and electronic music, 'Disintegration Loops' by Basinski and Oneohtrix Point Never's 'R Plus Seven' really expanded what I thought music could do when I was young.

Recommend one artist for people to check out (other than yourself of course)

Huerco S., especially the album 'For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)'. Incredibly organic ambient music that has classic EDM buried somewhere deep inside it. An underrated treasure.