One day I was telling someone, about an interesting artist on our label. It was about a guy from Czech Republic under the name of Optical Frameworks. His real name is Martin Dlabaja, born in 1991. He has released 5 releases on Cold Tear Records. It’s difficult to put him into a box of a specific genre, but it’s influenced by dub techno, it’s ambient and drone with a lot of field recordings. He has used reel-to-reel tape recorders, microphones for recording under water, and is also an amazing photographer and visual artist. While I was telling all about that, I realised that he’s probably one of the most interesting artists that we have worked with. Sometimes I even ask myself, is this guy a genius? Therefore, I decided that he deserves a blog post that takes an overwiev of what he has done over the years of working with Cold Tear Records label.
His first release on our label was back in 2011. It was an album called “Surrounded Fog” that we released both in digital and CD formats. Martin did not send me any descriptions or explanations of what he did in this album, all I have on it is this: “composed & recorded during winter on old tesla b115 reel-to-reel”. It’s an immersive experience to listen to it. You may find it on our bandcamp below.
All of the album is oriented towards ambient and compositions with field recordings, and only two tracks have a beat and resemble what we may call dub techno. By the way, as you could’ve guessed already, the cover artwork was made entirely by him self. He also has made a series of videos for some of the tracks. You can check out one of them below, and find more on our YouTube channel.
The same year he released his next album on our label called “Aether Blueprints”. And he asked me to release it under the artist name of Optical Framework. He wanted it to be singular this time, not plural. I didn’t even ask why. I was just happy to have him on board, and I was willing to let him do whatever he wanted, because I believe in his exceptional intellect and talent. For this album he had a proper description. Which we will get into, but first I want to let you listen to the album, which you will find below. Also, the cover artwork is his own work, as always.
In the album description he goes into explaining what it is all about:
The original idea was to capture the essence of interesting places with as little use of synthesis and regular waveforms as possible. Instead, every instrument and sound was to be born of field recordings made during a year of travelling. Source material included soundscapes of rainstorms from the beautiful forests of Beskydy; storms over the towns, yards and burnt lands of the island of Brac; the industrial areas of Zlin and late night soundscapes from Brno City. In addition to these soundscapes, further source material emanated from the experimentation of sound produced by static electricity, electromagnetic fields and underwater recordings with homemade Hydrophones.
The final inspiration came from a fascination of psychoacoustics and sound produced beyond the regularly accepted limits of human perception. Sound that can be detected by spectrum analysis but not actually percieved by the ear. The resulting studies, and attempts to catch this hidden sound and it’s effects on that which is perceptible, centered on field recordings of rainstorms.
Each and every track herein began with, and exists within it’s own individual uncut recording. That recording alone fed the processes of building depth and sound, ultimately portraying a reinterpretation of the stories and emotions originally captured.
I believe you can capture more than just sound.
This album is for those who appreciate music which allows the listener space to think as opposed to one which overloads the senses. Also, for those people sharing my profound love of physics.
There are also a few videos to go with the album. One of them below.
It’s interesting to pick his brain reading the album notes. I like that he strived to use only natural sounds for the creation of these compositions. He also mentiones his use of homemade Hydrohpones. I believe that is a microphone for recording under water that he made for himself. Hard to really say anything else about it. Just immerse yourself into this world of sound and see how it changes you.
His next album on Cold Tear Records was released in 2013, named “Little Piece of Perseverance”. Surprisingly the cover artwork is not Martin’s photography this time. It’s an original painting by Viktor Suchomel, who’s apparently also a tatoo artist. I guess you could say it’s a collaboration between two of these artists.
“Little Piece of Perseverance” is an album made in winter/spring 2011-2012, made completely out of field recordings that I collected during this period. Each track represents a set of places visited mostly at night. You can hear tracks made of sounds of snowy, nighty trainstations, people waiting and chatting about daily problems, melting snow, wind and other sounds describing moods of this slow period of awaking in my life.
To me Martin is an exceptionally sensitive person, who has an ability to focus deeply on the subtleties of the sound. And obviously, to him it’s not just a hobby, not just a way to actualize one self in the world. But also a spiritual path.
“Little Piece of Perseverance” features more tracks with beats, but Martin still keeps his music very deep and meditative.
His next work for Cold Tear Records was in 2014. It was an EP called “Vibrant”. This time he stays silent, and let’s his music do the talking. Unfortunate in one hand, as we’re always curious to know more about what’s happening behind the scenes, but on the other hand I like the idea of all the required information being encoded in the music it self. With this work he goes back to using his own photography for the cover artwork.
And then his last work for Cold Tear Records was released the same year. It was a full length album this time, called “Vertigo”. It also features a photo gallery, of pictures made by Martin from his time in Slovenia. You get it if you buy the album from our bandcamp. You can also see a slideshow of that photography in the video below, with one of the tracks from the album in the background.
This album seems to be more inspired by the dub techno sound. But as I and you know, dub techno and ambient / drone is an excellent combination, that creates a remarkable depth in sound.
It is also important to mention that Martin Dlabaja is not just a sound artist. He works with all types of mediums, that include video, installations and technology. If you like his works you must visit his youtube channel, where he has published a bunch of his audio-visual art. Seems like lately he has been interested in computer graphics. Find that on his channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/MartinDlabaja/videos
And for all around info on what Martin Dlabaja is up to visit his website: http://optical-frameworks.com/
There’s one last thing I want to share about Optical Frameworks. I remember that at one point I was interested in using reel-to-reel tape recorders my self. Because in the dub techno history it’s an important element to how the lo-fi dub techno sound developed. Nowadays I just mimick the background hiss of the tape, but back in the day, bands like Basic Channel / Rhythm and Sound had tape decks as an important part of their studios. Perhaps such amount of tape hiss wasn’t welcome at that time, hard to say, you’d have to ask Moritz von Oswald if such lo-fi sound was intended, but now it is a part of the whole aesthetic of dub techno style. Anyway, so I asked Martin about some technical aspects of using the machines, and he made this video where he shows how he generates all those sublime sounds. It’s a fun thing to watch, see it below.
Since “Vertigo” we haven’t released anything new from him. Although my hope is still alive, that we will get a message from Martin once more, asking if we’d be interested in releasing his stuff again. But whatever the future holds, I will always remember his creations as classics of our label.
Written by Evaldas Azbukauskas