Last year, C. Ballantyne (Connory Ballantyne of Epoch Tapes) and a bunch of pals took a road trip to attend Eaux Claires, a music and arts festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin founded by The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Ballantyne’s EP Field Eaux is a sonic scrapbook of this experience.
Field Eaux is built exclusively from manipulating field recordings collected during Eaux Claires. Ballantyne has created thick pads from POLIÇA vocal snippets, created his drum kits from Happy Apple drummer Dave King’s live improvisations, and turned Chance the Rapper’s ad libs onstage into glitched out percussion.
“Spiritplace,” the second single from Field Eaux, whirs and twinkles with the unrecognizable sounds of the ensemble Collections of Colonies of Bees, jazz trio Happy Apple, and Vernon and Dessner’s track “Big Red Machine” In the track’s video, streaming below, we watch Ballantyne stand alone in a forest before getting tackled and punched by a bunch of his buddies – imagery that picks up on the lyrical themes of male friendship, as Ballantyne explains:
The lyrics are big time about brotherhood + this sort of honest, fragile beauty to masculinity when it’s done right. The car ride my first year of Eaux Claires was a really important one in a few of my male friendships. In understanding the openness + strength of brothers who bond together in a real way. We were all dealing with some heavy stuff.
Cheesy yea, and perhaps a strange concept to focus on in the current social climate of such toxic masculinity, but maybe that’s important. I think I was lucky to be raised in a family where masculinity didn’t mean brutish strength or ignorant resilience. My father always portrayed being a man as this beautifully strong, tender, emotional thing centred on love. I really felt that way in the car ride as we passed into the US, this strength in being openly broken with two men I considered brothers- esp in a country that is so infamous for failing to teach young men that open emotion is important. And then to come to this festival so full of honesty, beauty, and power. It was almost a pilgrimage for me.