Podcast 671: Exael
Otherworldly, murky ambience.
Podcast 671: Exael
Otherworldly, murky ambience.
There’s little information out there on Exael, wherever you look. What we do know is that they’re originally from Wichita, Kansas, which is where they became aligned with a crew of friends making and shaping electronic textures and rhythms into various breeds of modern ambient and downtempo. Between 2013 and 2019, the group shared their work and organized events through Terry Radio, an internet radio station.
Exael’s gateway in was Ulla Straus (a.k.a Ulla), a friend from childhood, but they’ve become an integral member of what’s a highly elusive community alongside Pontiac Streator, whom we featured in September; Brian Leeds, better known as Huerco S. or Pendant; Mister Water Wet; and Special Guest DJ (a.k.a uon), Exael’s partner. The couple live in Berlin, having relocated from Chicago, and the collective has broadened to include Ben Bondy, among others.
Incidentally, Leeds’ West Mineral Ltd. has become a frequent meeting point for this community, and it welcomed Exael with 2018’s Collex, an album of otherworldly sounds and clattering, murky ambiance. In April, Exael returned to the label, this time with Bondy, which resulted in Aphelion Lash, an eight-track album of unheard solo material and collaborations. It’s intensely beautiful, and possesses the same gaseous quality of the ambient genre’s pioneers.
Recorded earlier this month, Exael’s XLR8R podcast is rich in tracks from those around them. There’s a gorgeous unreleased cut from Huerco S., plus music from Mister Water Wet and Monkey Twenty, an alias of Pontiac Streator. But it also looks beyond, opening with music from Japan’s Hironori Nagatsuma and moving through Lurka, from Bristol, and Horla’s sublime “Jumbo Score,” released in August. To wind down the mix, Exael turns to Bondy, whose “Lith” production delivers a standout moment of the mix.
01. What have you been up to recently?
I’ve been working on music mostly, and trying to get back into reading books. Right now I’m reading “Parable of the Sower,” watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer off-and-on, and also lots of TikTok. I watched “Southland Tales” a couple of times recently because it feels both prescient and relevant right now.
02. How has the lockdown period been for you?
It’s been relatively okay. I have a lot more time to make things, which is great, but figuring out how to sustain myself has gotten more challenging over the course of the year. The isolation of lockdown can get pretty draining, but I’m trying to make the best of it. The general state of the world amplifies any stress, for sure. Some funny things have come out of it though too: my friends and I started making a ghost-hunting show and that’s motivated me to get back into making videos.
03. What have you been listening to?
For most of lockdown, I’ve listening to a lot of shoegaze and rock music. But lately, I’ve been more in the gay anthem pop orbit and a lot of mid-2000s scene kid shit, and also like Soundcloud pop-trap stuff.
04. When and where did you record this mix?
Last week, on my couch.
05. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?
I selected tracks that I feel like are in a really big space, and like they are alive in the way that they are continually evolving or expanding. It’s what I would want to hear in a loud music environment when or if that comes back. A lot of the tracks are things that I found on Bandcamp this year, and there are some tracks from my friends.
06. You’re part of a whole crew of artists surrounding the West Mineral label. How did you connect?
Most of all of us have been friends since we met in Kansas, and Ulla [Straus] and I have been besties since high school. We met Pontiac Streator through some mutual friends when we were in high school. I started hanging out with him a lot when Ulla moved away for a bit after graduating, and we’d make music and eventually started throwing parties and shows together with our friends in Wichita, maybe 10 or 11 years ago now. That led to me being friends with Brian (Leeds; a.k.a Pendant and Huerco S.) and Mister Water Wet. Eventually we were all living in Kansas City at the same, and Ulla ended up moving there as well. That led to the formation of Terry Radio, which is a semi-operating internet radio station we all help run with a big group of friends and how we sometimes organize events. Shy (a.k.a Special Guest DJ) and I met on Tumblr about six years ago, and I moved to Chicago to be with him shortly after. He and I would help organize shows and parties with our friends there as well, and now we all kind of link up over time in different places.
07. What’s next on your agenda?
I have an album coming out on Soda Gong early next year called Flowered Knife Shadows that I’m excited about. It’s focused a bit more on club-oriented sounds again. Besides that, I’m just trying to find a stable way to make money, and trying to plan out how I can better redistribute that money when I have access to it. Also, there was supposed to be a West Mineral European tour over the summer, which hopefully will happen when it’s safe to do that again.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Hironori Nagatsuma “Osynlig struktur” [The Collection Artaud]
02. Tropical Interface “ncestry scl” [BLCR Laboratories]
03. Bop “Untitled Pattern 69” [Med School]
04. Pent “3” [Self-Released]
05. Huerco S. “Jaunt” (Demo) [Unreleased]
06. Lurka “Powder” [Damage]
07. Slacker “Mists Lift” [Room II Records]
08. Es.Tereo “Ultimas Breath” [Cosmic Bridge]
09. DÆMON “faceValuue” [Intelligent Models]
10. Downpour “In Memory of Mary and the Atom” [Dropbeat]
11. JAK3 “Nuh Uh” (feat. Yvncc) [Origin Peoples]
12. Ivy “Oni” [Self-Released]
13. Torus “Arrival” [Queeste]
14. Horla “Jumbo Score” [Le Cabanon Records]
15. Mister Water Wet & Monkey Twenty “Platinum Rose in House” (Dub Edit) [Self-Released]
16. The Neighbourhood Character “Unacceptable Model” (4 A Dance Track) [Self-Released]
17. Ben Bondy “Lith” [Experiences Ltd.]
18. IOSS “MAMA, Study of a Human Tongue” [Midas Tapes]
19. xphresh “xephon” [Unreleased]