Space Town on his album Ephemera

Space Town is the musical project of Patrick Trinh, an artist and game developer in San Diego, California. His album Ephemera drops on November 21, 2016 through Gridwalk Media. We did an interview over email to talk about the album.

Gridwalk:

Where was Ephemera made? How long did it take?

Space Town:

I developed the style that I wanted to pursue in San Diego after a period of creative ennui. I released my first EP with this style while still living there, but I didn't feel like my production skills were where I wanted them to be. This coincided with my acceptance into the Master's program for Games + Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz, after which I moved north to the Bay Area, where Ephemera was made over the course of about 2 years. I didn't originally plan to release this set of tracks as an album -- they were supposed to be one-off compositions that I was using to build up a set for live shows. They were also experiments in different styles and structures for this new style I wanted to write, but they ended up being more similar thematically than I expected them to be, and I decided to sequence them into an album.

Gridwalk:

The album has a pensive, contemplative feeling that flows into faster moving sections that are somber and uplifting at times. Was this your intention when you started writing the songs or did it just come out this way?

Space Town:

I've always been interested in the dynamics of dance music, and for a period of time I was listening to a lot of trance artists like Above & Beyond, Andy Moor, Leon Bolier, and Jaytech. Ario Barzan (who has released an album by the name of Vurgon on Ubiktune) wrote about trance in a forum somewhere where he talked about the conflicted nature of older trance music before the rise of "uplifting" trance, where melancholic and somber themes were contrasted with the ostensibly celebratory nature of dancing, creating a strange dynamic where the only thing you have to anchor you to the "real world" is the often enormous kick drum while the rest of the song carries you into spaces unknown. Sometimes this results in nostalgia, and other times it results in euphoria, and this can be different for different people.

When I began writing these songs, I wanted to explore this dynamic, but I didn't want to just use the stereotypical trance sounds and aesthetic. I had been writing straight trance music for a while until this point, so exploring the dynamic using trance forms as opposed to a trance aesthetic was a natural progression for me. It's difficult for me to think about the "intention" of the flow from contemplative sections to more intense sections because for me that's the natural progression of trance, regardless of the instruments used. Ephemera ended up being an experiment in how that progression manifests in different ways.

Gridwalk:

In the past you've released music as Space Town Savior as well as just Space Town. What's the distinction for you? Do you still ever use Savior?

Space Town:

Space Town Savior was a project that was much more focused on chiptune exclusively. While I liked to use external effects during my performances and recordings, Space Town Savior was much more concerned with exploring the limits of old videogame systems, and the effects were simply a way to bring out the qualities I found most intriguing about the stereotypical chiptune sound. When I started making chiptune music, the predominant aesthetic was quick, fast, and close, in that a lot of recordings when I was still actively making chiptune were recorded directly out of the Gameboy with no external processing and thus had no sense of space sonically. I wanted to see what happened when this space was introduced, and trance music seemed a natural fit for this kind of dynamic between "harsh" sounds and reverb effects. Most of what Space Town Savior ended up being was essentially trance music on Gameboys.

It seemed natural for me to shorten the name and remove the individuality from Space Town Savior, as I see Space Town as a more broad aesthetic or sensibility that isn't so concerned with just chiptune or just music or just videogames. I like to think of whatever Space Town is as an exploration of the dynamics between videogames and music, whether that be the performativity of videogames or the sonic spaces created by music.

Gridwalk:

Let's talk tech for a second. Did you use any gameboys on this album? What's your hardware / software setup like?

Space Town:

Ephemera was composed with a combination of Gameboys (running a synthesizer/sequencer program called LittleSoundDJ), an Arturia Microbrute, and various percussion samples. All of these are put together in Ableton, and I do most of the arrangement and sequencing in the program, adding synths when I want to add more layers to an instrument part. For Ephemera, I wanted to mix the Gameboy sounds to the point where it became just another instrument as opposed to being so distinct that it overpowered the song itself. I've been experimenting with using emulators to run LittleSoundDJ and recording directly from the emulator, but I find it easiest to just compose directly in the physical Gameboy and record the parts into Ableton. I think it's just what I'm used to at this point!

Gridwalk:

So you're also a game developer. Are there any projects you want to tell us about?

Space Town:

For personal projects, I'm currently on a game development hiatus -- I focused most of my attention on finishing Ephemera for the last few months. My most recent project is a game called AURA, which is a music-based twin-stick shooter emphasizing exploration, in which you play as the pilot of a ship trying to get you and your people to your home while navigating strange, music-filled worlds. You can find it at http://auragame.org. I have projects that are still in the design stage however, and I'm really excited to get started on developing those ideas!

I'm also currently a Technical Production Assistant focusing on audio at Sanzaru Games, where we are working on various titles for the Oculus Rift.