D//E Interviews: Reduction Plan // Album Premiere: (Ae) Maeth

Reduction Plan's fourth full length, (Ae) Maeth, sounds and feels like their most accomplished and fully realized work to date. It's a seamless amalgamation of post punk, new wave, gothic rock, industrial and shoegaze sounds, and the artist responsible for it, New York's, Daniel Manning, talks about his new creative endeavor and more in an interview below.

(Ae) Maeth releases September 20th, 2019 through Redscroll Records (vinyl) and Dune Altar (cassette), and we are psyched to be presenting it in its fantastic entirety for the first time, further below.

How different is the new album, (Ae) Maeth, compared to the previous Reduction Plan releases? How different was the creative process?

I think this record is significantly different from anything the project has done before, in a number of different ways. From a purely sonic standpoint I think it’s darker and more visceral than anything we’ve done before, I wanted to shed some of the dreamier elements I had held onto on our earlier records in favor of something slightly more sinister. Creatively I was able hone in something I had been trying to nail down for a really long time – both sonically and aesthetically. This project has grown a lot over the years but I really feel like with (Ae) Maeth we struck something that feels very actualized.

The creative process was far more unified than anything I had worked on prior, I had a very particular vision going into writing and recording a lot of these songs that I haven’t had with past records. I knew almost from the start what I wanted this record to sound like and what I wanted it to be, which was very new to me. That unified vision really drove me and pushed me to work harder on these songs since I had a clearly defined goal to reach for the first time. Not to say I didn’t work hard writing our prior records, but there’s a spirit of free-flowing experimentation on those that I didn’t think fit into what I wanted this record to be.

What does the new record's title stand for, and what are some of its themes?

(Ae) Maeth’s title comes from the old folktale of the golem, which is a clay figure given life through the inscription of aemaeth, or truth, on its forehead only to have its life extinguished by erasing the first to characters to form the word maeth, or death. So, truth and death are linked very closely and inextricably. Meaning and purpose are not far from death which, when dealing with loss, is easily forgettable. It’s very easy to feel an overwhelming sense of futility in the face of something as monumental and incomprehensible as death. Those themes tie in very closely with a lot of the lyrical and conceptual themes across (Ae) Maeth. It’s not a record entirely about death, but it certainly exists in the shadow of death, and is mostly a record about searching for meaning in the face of insurmountable feelings of meaningless-ness.

Meridian draws influence from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. How much of an influence has literature been for Reduction Plan in general?

I get inspired by songs plenty, but I find longform writing to be far more inspiring and interesting in certain ways. Whenever I’m struggling with lyrics I try to take a break from writing and find some time to read. I think certain feelings can be conveyed far better through longform writing than through song, purely because of the form itself. You have space to develop, describe, and experience feelings that you simply don’t have time to express in the length of a song. Since moving to New York my reading has declined sharply, so I’d feel disingenuous saying literature is a massive influence over what I do with Reduction Plan, but it’s always there in the background to guide me when I’m feeling particularly stuck or uninspired.

What are some of your strongest non-musical influences?

I absolutely love all things science fiction – modern and classic sci-fi have been huge aesthetic and thematic influences to me over the years. I particularly enjoy sci-fi that centers on AI and the ways that pertains to consciousness and the self. In fact, I first got the idea for the album title from the second Ghost In The Shell film, in which the protagonist is trapped in a mirage that causes him to gradually dissociate more and more. The only clue to alert him to this trap is an inscription on the floor that slowly changes from aemaeth to maeth, indicating that he is straying further from consciousness.

Similarly to books, I think film in particular is really great at conveying certain feelings that songs aren’t able to, and I definitely take a lot of influence from that. I find the freedom to build your own world within a film really fascinating, and I tried in various ways to do that when creating this album. You get to make your own rules, own systems of logic, own visual palette when creating a film, why not try to do the same via music? I wanted to paint a vision of something in the same way one might create a vision of the world in a movie.

What made you decide to enlist outside help for the album's production? What did producer Kevin McMahon bring to the table?

Kevin actually reached out to me about working together at a pretty pivotal moment in the album’s creation. I had just finished up a good portion of the instrumental tracking at home, and was about to sit down and start recording vocals when Kevin hit me up asking if I’d be interested in working together on anything. I’m glad he did, because he completely changed the direction the record was taking. Up until that point I had been doing all of the recording and mixing myself, and sort of felt like I had plateaued in my ability to get what I wanted out of that process. Essentially, the concept I had exceeded both my own skills as a mixer and the technical limitations of my gear.

Luckily, Kevin brought a wide array of skill and knowledge to the table. He approaches things in a very conceptual way, which this record definitely benefited from greatly. He was able to take the sounds I had captured at home and alter them in such a way where they became more elevated versions of themselves, essentially making a more refined and dynamic version of the record I had recorded on my own. It was a huge learning process for me, and he was very patient while I adapted my way of doing things so that someone else could understand and dissect the songs.

There's a very much notable collaboration with Jae Matthews of Boy Harsher on the album's closing track. Who else do you think would make a good contributor to Reduction Plan's sound?

I was really stubborn about bringing outside people on in the early stages of Reduction Plan, mostly because I very adamantly wanted a space to do everything myself. I got over that stubbornness with this record though and I think it really benefits from outside contribution, Jae’s especially (but s/o to Jack for the sax and Lou for the extra noisy guitars as well).

At this point I’m open to collaborating with anybody really, I kind of miss working with other people on music, as great at it is to have a creative outlet that is solely mine. I have started to miss collaboration and sharing of ideas. I think there’s certainly value in a singular creative vision, but it doesn’t hurt to have others contribute.

You've recently shared the stage with Odonis Odonis, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Public Memory and more. How would you describe your live act? Were any of those latest shows particularly memorable?

Reduction Plan as a live entity has existed in a number of different ways, but I think recently we’ve really hit a stride live. I feel way more confident about our ability to accurately represent the project live than ever before. We use a drum machine live which keeps our setup pretty easy, and then it’s usually myself and Lou on guitar/synth and a revolving cast of good friends filling in on bass (s/o Shane, Marty, John, and Dave). It’s pretty sparse but it gives us the freedom to be really dynamic, which I enjoy a lot.

All of those shows you mentioned were really fun. Rob from Public Memory has been really kind to us and is a good friend, as are all of the folks in Elizabeth Colour Wheel. Any time we get to play with friends is a good show for us.

Which are some of your earliest memories that involve music?

I’m pretty sure there are photos of me somewhere in a powdered wig playing patriotic songs on the recorder as part of some elementary school concert. That might be about as early as my memory will allow me to remember.

I was exposed to a lot of cool music at a very early age thanks to my dad, which I think definitely left an impression on me, if for no other reason than just being constantly surrounded by music. Even passive listening can influence you, whether you’re aware of it or not.

What made you take such a dark approach as a musician?

I think I was drawn to darker music pretty early on – I taught myself to play guitar by learning of all Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which is a pretty grim record thematically. As I started to branch out into writing music myself, I found it hard to write “bright” music and always found darker, more somber music a far more genuine way to express myself. It just came far more naturally to me as a writer.

As far as Reduction Plan goes – I started the project at a time in my life when I was listening to a lot of darker music, so that just bled over into all of the music I was creating myself. There are some earlier songs that aren’t quite as dark, but as the project has become more refined those ideas end up on record less and less.

What are you currently listening to mostly?

As I’m writing this I’m listening to Haruomi Hosono, who I’ve been really into lately. I spent a lot of this summer listening to Joni Mitchell, particularly Hejira, as well as Neil Young’s On The Beach. The musicianship on Hejira is unparalleled, I can’t get enough.

Now that the weather’s starting to cool off I’m returning to a lot of heavier stuff that has come out this year – particularly the new Yellow Eyes, Lingua Ignota and Big Brave records. They’re all absolutely massive sounding and terrifying, Lingua Ignota especially. The new Bill Callahan, Purple Mountains, and Drowse records have all been mainstays in my heavy rotation too.

What comes next for Reduction Plan?

We’ve got a few shows lined up to celebrate the release of the record, one in Hamden, CT with Xiu Xiu on October 2nd, 2019, and one in my new home of New York that we’re still ironing out. Other than that, we’ll hopefully figure out some plans to tour. I’ve never been to the west coast and I’d really love to be able to do that off of this record. There seems to be a lot of really cool bands out there making dark music that I’d like to link up with.

I haven’t sat down to write anything since putting the finishing touches on this record, and I’ve definitely been getting the itch to experiment with ideas again so hopefully I’ll be able to find some time to do that soon. Other than that, who knows! Hit us up.

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