Kyle Landstra has emerged as an essential force in Logan Square’s burgeoning synth scene, creating vast sonic landscapes of out of a small spare room full of synthesizers of all different shapes, sizes and sonic capabilities. His latest release, Unshared Properties Vol. I-IV, is a sprawling, shimmering ode to generative sound design. Fort Wayne, Ind. label Sacred Phrases backed the release, producing a limited run of the four-cassette album, which contains nearly 2 hours of music. (Unshared Properties Vol. I-IV is available for listening on Spotify, in case you didn’t get your hands on the acetate.)
Landstra’s compositions, many of which span well over 10 minutes, inspire wonder and contemplation as layers of ear-tickling synth ebb and flow like watercolors against a vast, pitch-black backdrop. I caught up with Landstra in Logan Square, where he lives with his cat, Klaus, and chatted with him about his process, his latest release and his plans for the future, including a performance at Café Mustache (2313 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Dec. 14. Check out my interview with Landstra below, and check out his Bandcamp and Soundcloud as well.
LS: How long have you been making music, and how did you get started?
KL: I became interested in making music with synthesizers after becoming an avid listener of ambient and New Age music. I was aware of how one could create sounds with regular rock instruments, but the idea of a keyboard producing such alien sounds was beyond me, and thusly intriguing enough to make me want to try my hand at it. I began my initial attempts at drone music around 2007.
When was your first official release?
Well, the first actual release of my music into the world was by way of a ‘net label’ that one of my friends had started. ‘Net label’ means that they would only digitally release music without any physical copies. That was in 2009. My first physical release was “Contemplation through Meditation” in 2011 on Already Dead Tapes.
How would you compare your latest tape release with music you’ve put out in the past?
One of the biggest differences with Unshared Properties Vol. I-IV as opposed to older releases is that all of my recent pieces were composed on a hardware sequencer, namely the Yamaha QY100. Other than a few exceptions, my previous albums were largely based around utilizing a loop pedal and a maximum of two other synthesizers. So for Unshared Properties, my gear list expanded immensely. Since the focus of that album revolved around the idea of using configurations I had not attempted before, it became a study in finding myself within these various setups. Along with the differences of gear, I also have been more intentional and meticulous about the patches (sound settings) used in my music. I have been creating them from scratch and crafting them specifically for the sequences I am working on at the time. I had used a lot of presets in the past, but have found more enjoyment in sitting down for an entire weekend menu-diving and tweaking parameters to my heart’s content.
What directions are you moving in as far as future projects?
With future releases, I am planning on furthering the exploration of my newer pieces of gear and attempting different styles of composition. Even since Unshared Properties was recorded, I have acquired a lot more gear, which definitely inspires investigative research. This also gives me a lot of room to try out new ideas within the realms of patch creation, especially since all of my synths involve different types of synthesis (frequency modulation, wavetable, sample-based, subtractive, linear arithmetic, etc.). My influences are forever in flux, which can also determine how I go about composing a piece for a specific release.
So, how long have you been living in Logan Square?
I have lived in Logan Square since I moved to Chicago in July of 2013.
Have you played any venues in the neighborhood?
Totally. Most shows I attend are typically in Logan Square or surrounding neighborhoods anyhow, so I never really venture too far out. There seems to be enough interest in the genre here, so I rarely find myself scooting across town to perform.
Speaking of playing live, describe your live sets versus your recordings.
They are one and the same. Ever since I started making music my intention was to be able to have my recordings contain the same energy as my live sets and vice versa. This is why I had initially started out using a loop pedal and growing into sequencing, to be meshing with the present, but to also layer other ideas on top of that. So as far as recordings go, the tracks are recorded as they are performed and without overdubs.
Are you playing live again any time soon?
Yes! I have a show coming up. It is Monday, Dec. 14 at Cafe Mustache with Daniel Wyche and Gardener. That starts at 9 pm and it is free.
Any other plugs or shout-outs?
Come December, I will have a split tape out with my bud Joe Bastardo, aka Bastian Void, on Chicago-based label Lillerne Tapes. Definitely psyched on that, because Gabe does a killer job with that label. Spring will yield two more split tapes with homies Braeyden Jae and Ross Fish. I also have a couple full albums in the planning stages for 2016, but I have yet to begin recording. My Facebook page is probably the best way to track my releases. Also, Unshared Properties Vol. I – IV was recently added to Spotify, so there are more listening options now! Dead freaks unite! Shout out to all my danglers out there, you know who you are!