Yann Novak Explores the Queering of the Mid-West on New Room40 Album
'Slowly Dismantling' LP is out November 1.
With Slow Dismantling, Novak, a Los Angeles-based sound artist, problematises understandings of ambience as homogenous and static. Reflecting on his formative experiences as a queer youth in middle America, he delivers a series of dense sonic fields that reflect on how the past can be decoded and utilised as a device for contextualising the future.
The album cover features the remnants of Hotel Washington, home to the LGBTQ+ community in Novak’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin from the ’70s until 1996 when it burned down. It housed a restaurant, a barber shop, a cafe, and an assortment of gay bars that served as a gathering space for the community. “I was 17 when the hotel burned down and had only gone to the cafe a handful of times,” Novak recalls. “What I expected to be the formative site for exploring my newfound queer identity was suddenly lost to the past, and I was left wondering how such a space would have influenced me.” What remained in Madison after the fire was only “the mainstream version of gay culture,” Novak continues. “The expressive camp of cinematic cult classics, drag shows, and quotes from pop culture was the language, and I didn’t speak it.”
As he adds, art and music are often identified as “queer” when they share these same core aesthetics, tropes, and character stereotypes. “This further taught me that, though I was queer, what I was making was not,” he explains.
Because of this, he withdrew, and the alienation that came with his introversion made it hard for him to take up space in the world. “As my work as an artist and composer progressed, this lack of self-confidence became part of my practice,” he continues, and he began using field recordings as a way to limit his decision-making. “I could shape and mould this source material to an extent, but there was always an external structure,” he explains. “While this allowed me to create work that was autobiographical, I was never totally in control of what I was making; thus, I was never fully visible in the work.”
This all changed following a transformative experience at a queer music gathering in the spring of 2019. He was finally immersed in a queer community that existed outside all dominant cultures, finally allowing him to feel seen as queer without any of the shortcomings the mainstream culture had led him to believe. “The acceptance and community I found there showed me the importance of identifying my work as queer—even if it does not deploy any of the codified tropes mainstream culture would be comfortable with—in order to make another version of queer visible,” he adds.
As he worked through Slowly Dismantling, it became “a liberation from and a reinterpretation” of himself, allowing him to shed his insecurities. He chose to use digital and analog synthesis, recorded at his studio in Los Angeles, and he then reprocessed recordings captured at MESS in Melbourne and EMS in Stockholm. “Using pure synthesis allowed me to make decisions that were totally my own and present an album that is more personal and honest than any before it,” he explains.
Earlier this year, Novak released Stillness, his latest album, via 901 Editions.
01. All Things End, Sometimes in Fire
03. We All Disappear
04. The Metaphor of Party
05. Again and Again Until We Feel Nothing
Slowly Dismantling LP is out November 1, with “All Things End, Sometimes in Fire” streaming below, and pre-order here.