Elisabeth Dixon makes music that stays with you. Layer-upon-layer of meditative drone and industrial beats that leave you in a lingering, trance-like state.
Playing dance floors and abandoned warehouses in Melbourne for the past 12 months, this new producer cut her teeth supporting artists like Daze, Chiara, Kickdrum, Sleep D and OAKE from Berlin. Now she’s releasing her debut, LP1, on Trait Records in Australia and Instruments of Discipline overseas.
We chatted to Dixon as she prepares for its release on October 5, and give you a sneak exclusive track preview.
Can you jump into a bit of your background personally and as a producer?
I don’t really have any background as a producer. I’d never made music before and never played an instrument. I never thought anyone would hear anything I made. I was always into post-punk, industrial, drone, noise—I guess (stuff like) Coil, Einsturzende Neubauten and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I went to and worked in lots of clubs when I was younger, but I was never really into the music. Then I lived in Germany for a year and, when I went to the clubs there, I realised that music was what I wanted to hear.
Something endless and numbingly repetitive that doesn’t just happen in your head—it’s also a physical experience. Dancing to drone-y techno, somewhere with a good sound system, works like meditation. Then I was listening to post-punk/metal artist collaborations with dance music producers and the remixes that come from those two genres—especially the Isis Oceanic remix series—that’s where I first heard of James Plotkin and Justin Broderick. I was listening to releases by labels like Stroboscopic Artefacts, Ostgut Ton, Blackest Ever Black and especially Samuel Kerridge’s label, Contort. That’s sort of the point in time that I started making music.
LP1 will be coming out on Trait Records this October in Australia. Are you looking forward to finally have your debut album in the flesh?
This process has spanned around two years now—such a long process. To be releasing the LP is a surreal idea. Damian (Coward; Trait Records) and I have worked hard to put this together. As a whole, we did the artwork and design together and planned it all. So it’s weird to have it play out.
Any plans to do a full-scale Australian, or even international tour, off the back of this release?
This LP is a split release with a really sick German label called Instruments of Discipline. Luna Vasarotti, who runs IOD, was really supportive from the beginning and the plan has always been for a small east coast Australian run and then to hopefully get over to Berlin to play some release shows. That will all be announced once the record is out on October 5.
Tell me about the recording process…
I recorded it in my bedroom with the door locked in Footscray, then same deal but in Preston. When I was making this stuff, I put myself in a heavy bout of isolation. I had no outside influence; I wasn’t going out except to work. The only inputs were what I was listening to but it wasn’t music—my room was at the front of the house right on Barkly Street, which is busy main road in Footscray.
Before we moved in, the house was a low-key brothel, which made sense because the house always felt a bit fucked (laughs). I put a lot of effort into making it beautiful inside, but it was always off. I drove past it the other day and it’s a brothel again. All things change/stay the same and all that.
But it was noisy as fuck—trucks storming up-and-down all night. They’d always wake me up. Planes and helicopters; there’s a bus stop right at my then window, so I’d hear people yelling, arguing, singing and kids. Sus people would come to the door sometimes, asking for people who used to live there or if we had any rooms free. There was a gas leak outside my window for months and months and months. I love Footscray, but I think disgusting shit is beautiful. Our basest shit is way more interesting to me than sitting around on a rooftop drinking mimosas having a sick one or whatever. That was the environment I was in at the time.
Did you leave any room for experimentation?
I was experimenting in every sense because I was learning how to make beats and use my equipment. It’s all experimentation; each track on this record has at least 50 different versions, some more than 100—all slightly different. My hard drive was really full.
What did you find most challenging about recording your first full-length?
I never really felt like I was ‘recording’ the tracks. Like I said, I was learning as I was making them, so I just sat in my room for months at a time, working on one track—fucking with it until my housemates got sick of hearing it—then starting something else. It wasn’t a conscious process of ‘making a LP’. The tracks are personal in the sense that I made them all before anyone heard it or the idea of release entered my mind.
Were there any highlights from the process that you would be willing to share?
It wasn’t an especially great period in my life to be honest, I can’t think of any highlights worth sharing. Most of it was written in a pretty messy stage—shit was grim. The music’s pretty dark; it’s a pretty accurate reflection of what was up at that point.
Was it lengthy to pull together material for your debut?
I really enjoy fucking with sounds, so I spent a lot of time doing that. I spent way too long doing that, compulsively tweaking shit in ways that are pretty much totally imperceptible. Then I had to figure out how to structure a track. I remember I was living at my mum’s for a while when I first got back from Germany, broke as fuck, and I’d just listen to a track I liked, then try to re-create it exactly. Heaps of the time I was so off the mark that I’d basically just made a different song. But that was the process in the beginning.
What draws me in about LP1 is the overall flow of the album. It has this consistent ‘building’ feeling; yet it is decidedly restrained and cold. It promotes a sense of yearning. Did you, thematically, have an all-compassing vibe you wanted to portray with this release?
Thanks. It’s nice to hear that it all flows together as a coherent whole, because the tracks were written over the space of like a year. They used to all sounds so different to me but, with some distance, I can definitely hear the consistencies. It’s hard for me to be aware of what any of it really sounds like—it’s so far in my head. I always tend towards certain sounds. I tend to pull out the high end of everything so it feels heavy. But I don’t think that’s a conscious thing; I try to make it sounds like what I can hear in my head.
As a whole, I think the feeling I wanted to get across was of something else coming that never arrives. It’s anxious but with some sense of relief, like someone saying they’re gonna come and kill you but they never show up.
What influences did you specifically draw from to develop LP1?
I think my influences are subconscious. There are lots of things I listen to and admire, but 99 per cent of the time I’m not sure what I’m being influenced by. Sometimes when I’m listening to a track, I’ll realise where something’s come from—maybe music, a TV show or a feeling. I’m not really sure; making beats puts me into a state where I’m not really as conscious of that stuff as I might otherwise be.
What entices you so much about the scientific aspects of musical frequencies on people?
That’s something that fascinated me since before I started playing music—that everything creates a frequency and those frequencies interact and create measurable effects. That’s how everything communicates with everything else. It’s incredible that everything is making noise all the time; noise has real effects on everything. The effects noise has on our mind is, like, mind blowing (laughs).
With the majority of this album instrumental, what did the role of minimum vocals play on the album?
I guess a lot of music relies on vocals to create mood or get an idea across. For me, that takes up a lot of space unnecessarily. When something is instrumental, it leaves room for the listener to go into their own world.
The vocals on track Technique of Self again were an experiment. I still don’t like hearing those vocals, but it’s always a bit cringe I think to put your voice to something. Especially because I’m making pretty impersonal music in a way—the vocals make it personal. I didn’t want anything to be personal. The words are just phrases I pulled out of my notebooks. I guess they just function in the same way as any other sample—a sound that works with the other sounds and serves a particular purpose in the song.
What has become your favourite song on the album?
My favourite has always been Intervention because I think the structure is tight. I took so much out of that track—I took about half the sounds out of the final version; the one that’s on the record. I felt like I had been really self-indulgent; spending weeks and weeks making things really complicated. I was trying to exercise some restraint. That was probably the last of the LP’s tracks that I finished and I remember thinking ‘Ok, that’s a proper track’ for the first time.
Where did the title for the album stem from?
I guess I like the idea of cataloguing. The idea that this is my first release and there will be another one—that someone could go back and put them in order and see a chronology.
I keep pretty meticulous diaries and notebooks. I like going back through them and looking at the dates and reading the ideas was having at the time or what I was drawing. You can trace a sort of trajectory; I guess that’s why I wanted to call it LP1.
You also chose to Trait Records to release your debut. Why were they the right choice?
Yep—Damian is a machine; he’s made the release happen. He’s one of my best mates and has worked superhumanly hard for this. For instance, when I lost my computer with a year’s worth of stems on it, Damian got me a new one and helped me sort the tracks out again. I remember when he first heard these tracks at my place in Footscray, he was just so dead set about doing a release it actually seemed like a legit possibility for the first time. Trait’s only existed for a year and we’ve put out five records in that time—it’s a symbiotic relationship.
The label didn’t even really exist when we decided to do this release. There was interest floating about, but Damian just gets what I mean without me having to explain and, from the start, I trusted him. I remember he asked me where I wanted to be in a year and we pinpointed it really specifically and have done exactly that thing. That kind of follow-through is pretty rare, in my world anyway. My stuff is definitely different to a lot of the artists on the label, but when I play shows with other Trait artists it makes sense to me. Damian just gets shit done. What a lord.
You can pre-order Elisabeth Dixon’s debut from Trait Records here from September 15. LP1 will be released on October 5.