A stalwart of the Canberra music scene, Sebastian Field has been involved in numerous musical projects over the years, most notably as lead singer and primary songwriter for art rock outfit Cracked Actor. Stepping out on his own in 2019 his solo debut, Picture Stone, explored similar territory as his former band, albeit in a more intimate and at times, exploratory fashion. Sebastian’s new album, Sandcandles, is somewhat of a departure, focusing instead on creating widescreen sound worlds rather than more traditional song structures. This was hinted at in previous work, mainly through brief interludes, or as a foundation on which to build a song. But on Sandcandles this comes to the fore, with its warm, pulsing ambience, whirring vocal cuts, and skittering rhythms.
According to Sebastian, the majority of the album took shape in the early 2000’s, taking cues from the thriving IDM scene of the time, from the decayed electronica of Boards of Canada, to the bubbling synth melodies of early mŭm. Despite the period in which it was conceived, this is not merely an exercise in nostalgia, the music feels undoubtedly fresh drawing comparisons to the tape music of William Basinski, or the grandiose sound design of Ital Tek.
The album was also one of personal reflection, with Sebastian noting “over recent years, I’ve undergone lots of personal work and it’s been really interesting for me to look back and notice how much I stifled the development of my past creative self through negative self-belief and damaging habits, both of which were symptoms of unresolved personal issues. Equally interesting to reflect on the creative self that I’ve ended up nurturing up until now which, at this stage, I’m not sure is my authentic artistic persona.
The purpose of this album is to honour this younger creative self. It is drastically different to my first album, but that’s ok. It also leaves me in a strange creative clearing as I’m not sure if I’ll revert to a more familiar creative me, or continue to revive this more seemingly authentic creative self – or continue making music at all. Who knows.”
As a companion to the album, Sebastian has compiled a list of images and art movements representative of his taste in visual art at the time of the music’s inception.
The Art of Jean Giraud
I came across this guy through his work with Alejandro Jodorowsky, notably their ill-fated production of Dune. Giraud’s graphic novels, packed full of surrealist takes on the future, are stylistically so incredibly vivid. Such a talent. In the context of this article, the attached image may serve to illustrate the bubble I found myself floating around in back then. I was kind of generally engaged in a lot of imbibing (don’t actually drink anymore, though), of which I can see was ultimately a coping mechanism. Definitely resulted in a secure state of avoidance. I think the image portrays the Secluded Bubble positively, there’s relative comfort / safety in avoidance and emotional seclusion, but there’s only so long that an individual can maintain such a state. Anyhow, you should check out more of Giraud’s work if you don’t know him already, it’s really great stuff.
Post WW2 Yugoslavian Brutalist Monuments
The world of Sandcandles is kind of desolate to me – fairly minimal, with a lot of the pieces left in their essentially underdeveloped shapes. This is purposeful, in so far that I feel it honours the place I got them to when I was younger, and it renders them effectively as the relics that they are. To this end, I can view song creation as a process of creating artefacts of a time, the parallels of which can be illustrated by brutalist post World War 2 Yugoslavian monuments (successful segue?). I love these structures so much – they’re playful somehow in their own way, which is a funny thought for me to have given the fact that they symbolise a time characterised by war. As above, I’d recommend searching up more examples for yourself, some pretty captivating pieces to be seen – side note: this particular statue reminds me of one of the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion and I loved that show.
SEELE Logo from Evangelion
Might as well include this now since I mentioned Evangelion above + it allows me to refer to the art I originally wanted as the cover for Sandcandles. A while back I was followed on Instagram by an unknown artist from Japan, out of the blue. She had a really small following but followed many accounts. There wasn’t much on her account, outside of her art, which I thought was truly great. Really dense pictures, which were seemingly just doodles, done in biro and pencil, whatnot. Anyhow, there was this one picture of a whole bunch of floating eyes she drew which to me was pure album cover (though different, it had reminded me of this logo). I took a screen shot to ask for permission to use it when the album was close to completion, but, unfortunately, when I knew the album was almost done, resulting in reason to involve random artists from Japan, her account had disappeared. Absolute shame as I’d become attached to the image (bad expectation management on my behalf and entitled of me to practically assume she’d say yes, haha). In the end though, I’m really pleased with the current art for Sandcandles, which to me is actually a bit evocative of a Jodorowsky-esque drug trip, funnily enough.
The Toxic Forest in Nausicaa, Valley of the Wind
I feel there is some murkiness in this record. Kind of indicative of the fact that I was likely in an emotionally murky state when most of it was conceived. Without any sarcasm that could be inferred, what better way to try and illustrate this than by the Toxic Forest in Nausicaa, Valley of the Wind. It’s the place where Nausicaa finds the giant Ohmu, and is otherwise filled with deadly miasma that threatens all lifeforms. The main takeaway for the purpose of this article might be that if you spend too long in a murky state then you’re going to be effected by it. Pretty common sense, really, but sometimes it takes hindsight to see where you’ve been dwelling emotionally and the ramifications therein.
Spiral Head by Pavel Tchelitchew
I feel this image serves to illustrate how hollow one can feel – by extension, me, in the past (starting to feel a bit funny about relating works of art to my life, but this context is provoking it.). Anyhow, hollow is probably the wrong word, maybe personally without dimension here and there is more appropriate? I really am not sure how to articulate it. In any case, I understand his series of works in this vein have been interpreted to represent a human’s capacity to be fearful and doubtful. I see in it a persona that’s constructed of vibrations from a causal trauma. As it relates to the purpose of this article, I feel this is pretty accurate, as it reflects my understanding of the effects of dealing with heavy things as a child. In any case, as above, I’d recommend you go and seek out more of his work, and apologies for being a bit morose with this one – kind of makes me feel low just looking at it.
Untitled by Zladislaw Beksinski
Last picture to talk about in this article – thanks for reading. For the most part, the art of Beksinski is pure nightmare material. Impressive as it is, I don’t feel it really applies to this context, but the attached picture speaks to a sense of completion that ultimately is woven into the purpose of the album. With the understanding that the ocean can be a violent monster, here it can be seen in relative calmness as it’s ejected refuse that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. In trying to make a link here, and I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, you end up with all these false bits and pieces cluttering up your personality that eventually don’t fit, when formative years involve difficulty. It’s like there are artificialities to you and your intended developmental trajectory needs to expunge that detritus before it becomes harmful. By extension, I feel nature can be understood to have similar functionalities, case in point being catastrophic climate change-related events, brought about by the fact that we’ve gone too far with the way we treat the planet. It is pushing back against us. Anyway, that’s a major tangent. Main point here is that change has occurred for me personally, and this album serves as a part of the reflective process as I observe who I was and where I am now.
Sandcandles is available now via Provenance. You can find it here.