Datach’i is Joseph Fraioli, a Brooklyn based electronic musician and sound designer. Beginning with his 1999 debut debut album 10110101=[rec+play] and continuing with several other releases throughout the early 2000s, Joseph has always pushed the limits of what can be done with music. His releases have seen constant shifts and reinventions, all in pursuit of the sometimes melodic and sometimes rhythmic shock that typifies his work.
In addition to Joseph's work as Datach’i, you have undoubtedly heard his footsteps, slapping, burping, and burning sounds, as sound designer for many movies and commercials through his award-winning sound design company Jafbox Sound. He is also a founding member of Big Noble along with Daniel Kessler of Interpol.
Having broken a decade's silence with 2016's 'System', LA-based electronic musician Joseph Fraioli, a.k.a. Datach’i, returns this summer with his eighth album 'Bones'. Released on Venetian Snares' Timesig imprint, 'Bones' features 12 tracks of mind expanding electronica, once again recorded on his custom-built Eurorack modular system.
Much like its predecessor, 'Bones' manages to make the most of the possibilities modular systems offer, whilst avoiding their many pitfalls that can often turn such music into little more than a dry academic exercise. Indeed 'Bones' is a remarkably intimate album, written and recorded in the time following his father's death, and reflects this intense period of personal change in Joseph's life. "Creating this music was a therapy of sorts," Joseph recalls. "It was almost like a close friend being there for me, and it's something that I hope others can, perhaps, utilize in the same way."
The connection to his father is something that is reflected not just in the emotional intensity of 'Bones', but in the actual production itself. "My father and I were very close," he explains. "Whilst he was sick with cancer I bought him a guitar as he wanted to learn how to play, just to have something to do while he was getting treated. After he passed away my mother gave me the guitar to have as a sort of memory of him. I had the idea to record some sounds and music on the guitar and load it onto granular sample players on the modular synth so I could make new music from those sounds as a sort of tribute to my dad. You can hear some of those sounds on a few of the tracks here like 'Arrivals', 'Motion in the Living Room' and 'Undimension'."
The resulting album grapples with the intensity of these emotions. But for all their weight, tracks like 'Saugerties Road', ‘Rockledge 3A’ and ‘Antumalal’ transform that heaviness into something warm and comforting whilst the aforementioned 'Arrivals' or ‘Wand’ ultimately achieve some kind of escape velocity and soar.
Even though 'Bones' is about endings and finding closure, it also looks forward to new beginnings. "It was something very much on my mind throughout recording this album," he relates, "ends being beginnings and beginnings being the end. Cycles of time and how time works, it's all reflected throughout the album right down to how the tracks are ordered."
Ranging from blissful ambience and guileless, starry eyed melodies, to intricate claustrophobic rhythms that forever sound close to collapsing in on themselves before expanding into bold new patterns, 'Bones' is the work of a producer who, twenty years on from his debut, continues to push the boundaries of electronic music.
Fraioli has gone out of his way to make things difficult for himself. Like some ascetic Techno monk, he allowed himself no external sequencers or computers, instead embracing the limitations and challenges of creating entire tracks on solely the modular synthesizer. Talking about how the album was recorded, Fraioli explains, "The modular setup itself doesn’t really work without an operator, so it’s more about me and the modular becoming a single system. It’s akin to conducting an artificial intelligence machine of sorts, partnering with it in a way where you’re able to coax it into expressing a certain emotion. It’s amazing when you’re able to step back and witness the fully automated modular system making a structured and warm musical composition. It’s like the AI is alive."
The resulting album is, perhaps surprisingly, Fraioli's most "listenable" to date. Where previous Datach’i releases have aggressively explored the extremes of sound design, System is a more personal album; one influenced by his friends, family and even, when they go out of their way to attack him, the animals around him. "Basically I just love to make the kind of music that I enjoy listening to, and right now System is a pretty pure representation of that." Fraioli elaborates, “in the past I wanted to explore the boundaries of what could be considered music, and while that kind of exploration is still important to me, it can sometimes end up veering towards the academic. This time, I really wanted to make connections in the music to things that are important in my life, and introduce some energy from those interactions into the music, which perhaps made System more approachable.”
This passion for creating systems is one that permeates much of Fraioli's life, from running a sound design studio to designing his garden to specifically attract different varieties of butterflies – which in turn would inspire the eerie strains of the track "Monarchs." Meanwhile, Fraioli's experience in sound design informs every acidic squelch, nebulous pad, and metallic percussive element, creating an unsettlingly organic feel to even the most unnatural of sounds. Still, for all the talk of process and design – whether in tracks like the aforementioned "Monarchs," the spacious "Nebulae V2," or the apocalyptic "122112" – System feels less like a science project and more like alchemy, a magical process that breathes life into the baffling arrays of patch bays, oscillators, and cables.