ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Nicholas Elert
Pittsburgh space rockers Zombi came to X-Ray Arcade Sunday night, enlisting local support from desert-surf punk rockers Devils Teeth and experimental electronic artist Nicholas Elert.
Nicholas Elert is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose music has encompassed the realms of ambient, drone, and dark electronica. His set Sunday was entirely new material. 2020 was a substantial year for Elert, with two studio albums “Brittle Frames” and “Infinity Gate.”
He shares what went into “Brittle Frames”, which was released that April.
“I wrote that when I moved here – to Cudahy. I had gotten kicked out of my house in Bay View and we had about thirty days to find a new place, and this is where we found. I had a really nice studio before and moving sucks…so I set up my studio in the spare bedroom in the new apartment and that record was what came out. I had gotten a 4-track around that time so I had fallen down that rabbit hole for that record (laughs). But also I think there’s a lot of depression in that record because of that move and the stress around that. Playing guitar into a 4-track was pretty much how I spent my teenage years so I was falling back into things that I stopped doing, rediscovering what I’d done when I was younger. We had a whole tour planned around that record and I had gotten people that were going to help me play it live…then the pandemic happened.”
“Infinity Gate” came out in that December.
“It’s music that I was writing on and off since 2017. Actually, the first time I had dragged all my synthesizers up on stage was to play “Infinity Gate” stuff but it wasn’t “Infinity Gate” yet at the time. One of the first tracks showed up on a Triple Eye Industries compilation before the record was finished, and I had enlisted my friend to drag all the vintage stuff that I don’t like to take out of the studio and we brought it into Frank’s and some it came out a bit worse for wear, so I had to figure out how to do all that stuff live in a way that was efficient and not dangerous to all my stuff. So I was playing “Infinity Gate” stuff live in 2018 but never finished the record until 2020. I never got to play any of it live when it came out.”
In 2021, Elert released two compositions, “Anticausal” and “A Pressure From Youth” as part of a new series he began.
“I started writing that record under the premise that it was going to be an exercise in writing, like I’d have a month to write a piece of music and then put it out on the Internet. With “Brittle Frames” and “Infinity Gate” there was a lot of me working on things and then thinking it was terrible and then putting it on the shelf and not dealing with it for months on end. That sort of method of working really bugged me because I’d always go back to it and start thinking it was good and then I’d put it out. I thought that it would help if I’d impose these things on myself, so I started with “Anticausal” and “A Pressure From Youth” and it was going great. Then the third month came around and I didn’t like what I wrote and so it kind of fell apart, partly because I wanted to spend more time on it but it was also really depressing music so I was getting bummed putting myself in this mindset to fit the aesthetic that I’d created. Then I just got busy; I’d moved into a new studio and started working on things for other people. I would like to revisit that stuff someday but it looks like it’s going to be a while (laughs).”
In addition to his solo stuff, Elert writes film scores in collaboration with filmmakers such as John Pata and Jill Gevargizian and production companies Sixx Tape, The Line Film Company, and Method Media. His filmography includes “Dead Weight”, “Pity”, “Grammy”, “42 Counts”, “Gags: Terror Surrounds You”, “Gags the Clown”, and “One Last Meal.” His most recent score is “The Stylist” and for the first time his work was released on vinyl last summer.
“I’ve got to start another film score and that’s going to take up the bulk of the year. It’s for a film called “Black Mold” and they’re going to start filming it in the next couple of weeks. They’re filming it in this decommissioned air force base outside of Champaign and I thought how cool the idea of airplane hangars was and seeing if I could bring my instruments down there to play in such a big room. I went down there a few weeks ago and maybe it’s just a little too decrepit…like if we turned the amps on and start playing the drums the ceiling might cave in…so I’m going to go down there and still make sounds but they won’t be the big sounds we were hoping for.
Nicholas Elert is joining Lost Tribes of the Moon on synthesizers. He has no more solo shows booked as of now.