Julia Holter x gorilla vs. bear takeover: COLE MGN
Cole and I met ten years ago now, he was working at the Smell as a sound person at the time, and he was one of the few people that was really supportive of my music, and said if I ever wanted to work with him he would be down. I was scared to work with someone else because I had only worked alone at that point, but I trusted Cole and the first project I worked with him on was Ekstasis (2012). Over the years, from Ekstasis, which I mostly recorded but he mixed, to Loud City Song (2013) and Have You In My Wilderness (2015) which he recorded, produced and mixed, to Aviary, as executive producer, he has recorded and listened to and worked with (and sifted through lol) all of the many frustratingly dense layers of my music and been both a voice of reason and of creative support. When I’ve worked alone to record and mix, what is so hard is balancing all of the layers and spacing them out right, often it can sound really harsh—when Cole works on this, on all the records listed above, he achieves this rich and glorious sound, I don’t even know what it is really, some kind of sorcery lol. And of course part of that too is that he has directed how a lot of the arrangements ultimately pan out—what we take, what we leave—the overall textures, and you hear this most clearly I think in Wilderness, where he reigned things in a bit more than any of the other records with all my crazy layers I like to add. Also he’s been immensely helpful guiding me through recording vocals, especially on Wilderness, the vocals for which I recorded almost exclusively in his studio, and which singing for was particularly hard for me (both physically and mentally lol) because it was working in more of a tradition where the voice is more out front. He has a good sense of when the take has the right emotional vibe but also has an incredible ear for the basic technical stuff that one can sometimes miss in the moment, like pitchiness. He also has been very involved in the drum programming elements of the music of all of these records—of older stuff what comes to mind is “Horns Surrounding Me”. And for “Underneath the Moon” on Aviary for example, there is a subtle but crazy intricate web of drum machine/drum programing, that he made, underlying all the percussion above it (mostly Corey Fogel and some stuff I did) that provides the rhythmic foundation for the song. In general, on Aviary, we met up about the music before we recorded, he gave some thoughts about what I presented, which included an interest that I shared in having us integrate my home recordings more intensely than before with the studio ones, and ultimately he took a new position of overseeing and directing the overall direction rather than dealing with the details like in the past, always with the bigger picture in mind. Having someone who knows my work so well guide this project with a broader perspective was really useful.
Cole has been working on tons of projects over the years, with artists like Christine and the Queens, Nite Jewel, Dawn Richard, Ariel Pink, and Beck, and he also has released his own music as Cole MGN and his own band The Samps, which has a really unique sound that, to me, shows an ability to see and reveal connections between deeply contrasting worlds. — Julia Holter