Video Premiere: No Man’s Land on improvising drone and doom sets for Be_Hear / Now

Video Premiere: No Man’s Land on improvising drone and doom sets for Be_Hear / Now

No Man's Land
Words by Benjamin Lamb

Performing sets with her partner Swiss van Kalken, No Man’s Land's unique approach to music making through their mix of doom and drone gives an interesting flare to Be_Hear / Now.

The music of No Man’s Land’s is heavily rooted in improvisation. The pair, who both come from rich backgrounds in the music and arts industry, have a great deal of chemistry and are clearly attune to one another, helping them create some memorable live sets on the spot.

Creating music in the doom and drone genre lends itself to slower tempos, meaning connections between musical motifs and chord changes that are put forward by performers come forward with a much stronger emphasis.

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“Swiss and I are partners in life as well as in art, so we’re quite in tune with each other,” Pippa says.

“Playing together as No Man’s Land we’re usually working with loops, so it’s very much about listening to the tones, textures and motifs that the other is playing, and then layering something complementary, or something that will take us off in another direction.”

The music of No Man’s Land being an amalgamation of the duo’s past work, with Swiss van Kalken coming from the world of “heavy sludge rock bands”, and Pippa’s pre-No Man’s Land world featured a great deal of classical music and improvised theatre pieces.

These traditionally different areas of music and arts have joined forces and come together to begin the construction of the space that’s created during a No Man’s Land performance.

“It’s actually not that different to my theatre practice, which also relies heavily on improvisation,” she continues.

“Theatre is also about dialogue, by which I mean that it’s as much about listening as it is about speaking. It’s about liveness, spontaneity, and what happens in the space between the artists and the audience.

“That’s also where the name No Man’s Land comes from – among other things it’s a reference to the space that exists between us. What happens in that space when we’re making music – both putting sounds into the space – doesn’t belong to either of us, it belongs in No Man’s Land.”

With the world of doom and drone being one of the most original, No Man’s Land almost sit in their own genre, with Pippa noting that musically, their key influences are similar original artists within the doom and drone space, like Earth and Sunn O))).

But another element that separates No Man’s Land apart from other performers is their ability to create an experience. Listening to their music will transport you to another place, possibly coming from the idea that the pair are heavily influenced by areas outside the realms of the musical world.

“No Man’s Land are not just interested in the music but in the whole experience,” she says.

“We’re deeply anchored in place, and our music reflects that. It’s about recreating landscapes and atmospheres with sound. It’s about slowing down and listening deeply to the landscape.”

With the pair hailing from the beautiful town that is Ballarat, Pippa remarks that the plethora of wonderous landmarks, locations and views around their hometown are truly an important aspect of the No Man’s Land fabric.

“Since moving to Ballarat during lockdown, we’ve definitely been influenced by the environment around us: things like extinct volcanos, abandoned mines and subterranean tunnels, pine plantations straight out of a horror movie and the stark landscapes of the region.

“I guess you could say we’re very tuned in to the notion of Australian gothic, but we’re also tapping into the impending environmental apocalypse and the tension between recent colonial history and something much, much older” Pippa says.

The idea of being influenced by spaces and environments means that the pair want to create these for audiences who see their show, there’s a heavy focus on all elements of the live performance experience.

The idea of the pair’s music being anchored in place follows through to early thoughts about live shows, creating a space will be integral to experiencing a No Man’s Land performance.

A No Man’s land gig will be a memorable experience, most notably through it not taking place at a pub or club, but a space that lends itself to the world the pair create.

“We’re really keen to take No Man’s Land into site specific locations, and for the audience to be completely immersed in the experience,” she continues. ““When playing live we’re always thinking about production elements like lighting, projection, smoke effects, costumes etc – we really want to take our audience with us.

“During lockdown there’s been a lot of talk about a ‘third space’, a space that isn’t home or work. In a religious context, that third space is a church, but for music lovers, live performance is a different kind of communion. We’d like to create a sense of ritual, and for the audience to be drawn in, and complicit in the temporary communities we create.

“We also hope that we’re giving listeners pause to reflect on place as we perform part of a set entitled Black Hill, which was written for the location in which it was filmed.”

The pair’s Be_Hear / Now performance showing how this’ll take place, performing in Black Hill, an area that helps portray the world that they are creating in their music.

No Man’s Land are a notable feature on the Be_Hear / Now lineup, with their music being somewhat dissimilar to the other groups listed, but, Pippa assures they will give their own flare to the festival, and will certainly be an act you’ll remember.

“No Man’s Land are obviously quite different to the other bands and artists on the Be_Hear / Now line up, but hopefully that means we’re introducing new audiences to the drone, doom and minimalist genres,” she concludes.

“A lot of people assume that they won’t like heavier music, but we often find that our sound draws people in on a primal level – the repetitions begin to synch with your heartbeat and you hear more the longer and deeper you listen.”

Head to the Be_Hear Now website to stay on top of every performance.