Passionate, intelligent, ethereal music complete in its majestic dark beauty. Animus Mundi are a major vocal and instrumental triumph whose art is positively spellbinding.
Animus Mundi hail from Raleigh, North Carolina and consists of founding members Lee Nisbit (vocals) and Stacy Evans (instrumentation). Recently picked up by Lure of Lorelei, a subsidiary of Dark Symphonies, Animus Mundi is the product of over ten years of musical experimentation. Musically, Animus Mundi are influenced by a diverse breed of ethereal, intelligent music such as Dead Can Dance, Swans, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, and traditional Arabic music.
The resulting sound is of dark, brooding, breath taking beauty and unfullfillable longing. Their combination of high technology mated with traditional instruments is both contradiction and metaphor-symbolic of the modern world condition. Animus Mundi are able to convey such complex ideas through their slow, melancholy masterpieces with great skill and ease, never under or over-doing any aspect of the final product.
Recently, I had the priviledge of interviewing the members of Animus Mundi. We discussed music, philosophy and the ideas that are the cornerstone to their unique, eclectic style of musical expression.
First, what is the general history of Animus Mundi and how did you acquire a record deal with Lure of Lorelei?
Lee and I first started working together about ten years ago in a band called Tribal Lullabies while in art school. After that band broke up it was just Lee and I for the next few years just writing songs privately with acoustic guitar and voice. The immediate history of Animus Mundi began about five years ago when Lee and I graduated from college. We both got jobs that enabled us to start building a home studio to develop the songs we had been working on. After a couple years of toil we decided to put up a music website at mp3.com of some demo tracks . We were curious how they would be recieved since we had been working years in solitude. The internet is just a amazing medium and resource for the musician. The exposure we were receiving was very encouraging. In the summer of 2001 Alexandra Dimou from Lure of Lorelei [a subsidiary of Dark Symphonies] just randomly surfed into our website and loved what she heard. She solicited us about a record contract and the rest is history.
What is the primary instrumentation and musicians of Animus Mundi? What equipment does Animus Mundi currently own and utilize to achieve their sound?
We are a two person outfit. Lee handles all the vocals and I take care of all the instrumentation and production. Our studio is rather modest compared to some. We are running a Apple Macintosh computer (8600 ppc with a G3/400 CPU) equipped with a Yamaha DSPfactory audio card. Cubase VST is the sequencer we use along with a assortment of plugins and auxillary software.
A quick run down of some other gear: Behringer MX 1604A mixer, AT 4033 condenser mic, Shure SM57, Alesis M1 Active monitors, Alesis QS6 (controller), 2 Emu ESI4000 samplers. And we have various other real instruments such as a PRS Custom electric guitar, Takemine acoustic guitar, a baglama saz (turkish folk lute), a hammered dulcimer, a Turkish dharabuka (hand drum), some finger cymbals. It is amazing the capability and flexibility a musician has today.I shiver to think how much money we would spend if we went into a professional studio, whereas our home studios allows us to explore many avenues creatively. However, one drawback is having to learn the engineering side of things which takes alot of trial and error, and is very frustrating. We are still not quite there yet as far as the sound we want, but the songs are definitely moving towards that way as we have unlimited time and resources on our side.
Animus Mundi combines both light and darkness with the ease that they combine high technology and low technology into their sound.
What changes in your music occured due to your departure from Tribal Lullabies? Do you feel that Animus Mundi is more of a departure or refinement of the work you did with Tribal Lullabies?
There was a cataclysmic change in terms of style and process. Tribal Lullabies was a guitar based project, typical of the goth oriented music of that era with the exception that there was a definitely more an interest in world music, particularly Middle Eastern. But I think we faced many limitations in the choice of of our instruments and what we wanted to express. Technology has provided us a means to explore a variety of sonic palettes. In Tribal Lullabies we would start with the instruments and then come up with songs based on the limited sounds they made. Now, we have an idea for a song and the sounds are chosen that best flesh out it’s characteristics. Big difference.
What music theories do you use when composing works for Animus Mundi? Are you formally educated in music, or do you arrive at your distinct sound through experimentation?
I have no formal education to speak of. My first instrument was guitar which I practiced religiously when an adolescent, and was probably when I developed my distinct “style.” I had no idea what I was doing but I wouldn’t let that stop me. I just listened to a lot of music. I don’t think I even had a conscious perception of what scales were for years but would pick them out quite naturally when composing. In college I did take a music theory course but totally hated it and I think I got a C in the class. It sort of bored and frustrated me since by that time I already had a bastardized conception of what music theory was and should be. So basically the sound of Animus Mundi is arrived at through intuition and experimentation, and many of the songs are usually developed over a period of years. I just write what I think sounds good.
“The sound of Animus Mundi is arrived at through intuition and experimentation…”
The vocals for Animus Mundi are some of the best I’ve heard from an up and coming artist. What training and theory do you use to approach singing? Do you think of your music as a poetic vehicle for the lyrics and voice?
Regarding training, I had about one year of private lessons to learn how to sing correctly. After that year, I was able to more fully explore the intensity and range of my voice as an instrument. I do not consider myself to be an expert by any means-I just work with what I have been given. Yes, the music is the poetic vehicle for the lyrics and voice. The instrumentation is created first, and the vocals flow from it. When I begin new vocals for a song, they emerge as wordless phrases-raw emotions unfettered by diction. The lyrics may come later and are distilled from those initial sounds, through stream of consciousness and association. Their meanings are revealed through the process of creation-a form of channeling, if you will.
Does Animus Mundi play live, or are you primarily a studio project? Has Animus Mundi played any live dates or plan to in the near future.
Unfortunately, we do not play live with our current situation. It’s definitely more a studio project at the moment but who’s to say that might not change in the future. It’s not a question of us not wanting to but of the daunting technical aspects of such an endeavor. We wouldn’t want just to get up there and hit the transport on a some sequencer or dat and play along like monkeys. I definitely think any live event from us would have to entail more breathing bodies up on stage, perhaps augmented by some sequencing. We’ll see, but it’s definitely not a priority.
“…the music is the poetic vehicle for the lyrics and voice…”
From Latin, Animus Mundi roughly means “spirit of the world”-does this title and saying embody the philosophy of Animus Mundi’s music? If not, what philosophy does Animus Mundi apply to their music and lyrics.
There has been a lot of speculation around concerning the use of our name. But it is really simple I think. All the speculations are true! We wanted a name that would be all encompassing, from the secular to the spiritual. We had no specific meaning in mind using the term. I was first acquainted to the phrase through the writings of Carl Gustav Jung. Another possibility is the age-old arguement in philosophy and art-form and content. Does form and content exist independantly of each other? This goes pretty much to the root of the mysteries of Man. The Spirit and the Body. Are we more than just a collection of molecules? Are we greater than the sum of our parts? You know the cliches.
Music is an incredible vehicle to express this contradiction because it is so intangible. What does music represent in nature? Representational art mimics the natural world and is perhaps a imperfect medium in the Platonic sense of the Ideal. Music has form in the sense of it is composed of sounds but what is it’s connection to content? Music is indeed the language of the world because it gets down to that primal denominator, whatever that might be. And perhaps on a more face value, Animus Mundi (spirit of the world) just might be a term that expresses our interest in the diverse music and cultures of this earth. So as far as our name goes we are fairly pragmatic. We are simply two anonymous bodies lulled by these seductive siren-like vibrations, emanating from somewhere beneath the empty holographic world.
As up and coming artists, Animus Mundi have already accomplished a great deal in their decade long career. In addition to being talented musicans and songwriters, they are also highly intelligent and educated-two essential items missing sorely from todays underground music scene. The circumstances of their record deal with Dark Symphonies, being discovered wholly through the Internet, is perhaps a shadow of things to come in the world of darker music, and cause for great hope and celebration among musicians.
As representatives of the best in modern dark music, it will be interesting to see where Animus Mundi’s musical ventures take them, and us, to next.
Information on Animus Mundi:
Official Animus Mundi Website