The Dangerous, Delicate Touch of Luxury Hearse | Westword

The Dangerous, Delicate Touch of Luxury Hearse

Ambience with a side of techno.
Dan Coleman (left) and Rin Howell (right).
Dan Coleman (left) and Rin Howell (right). Cloak Photography
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Luxury Hearse is the collaboration between Blank Human (Dan Coleman) on synthesizers and drum machines and Psychic Secretary (Rin Howell) on vocals. Together, Coleman and Howell create a concoction of avant-garde club music that takes influence from ambient, shoegaze, noise, juke, house and techno.

What separates Luxury Hearse from its peers is its commitment to live performance and recording. Often, its albums are recorded in one take and the songs' patches are programmed in a particularly gutsy way; if the power was to go off in the process, it could destroy months of preparation. This risk creates a certain DIY, unpolished aesthetic that adds to the character of the sound. While the lack of physical instruments and human presence is often a criticism of electronic music as a whole, Coleman and Howell's approach makes the machinery itself seem human.

Coleman and Howell took that same path with their latest release, Fata Morgana, which is available to stream on Bandcamp. Although it's labeled as an EP, it consists of one long, evolving single. Clocking in at over 24 minutes, Fata Morgana is an exercise in patience and dynamic range as it gradually grows from ambient to dance music.

Westword spoke with Howell and Coleman about the duo's creative process, how they met and the thrill of creating dynamic music in such a delicate way.

Westword: How did you two meet?

Rin Howell: We met up at an ambient show at Mutiny [Information Cafe] that Dan had suggested, maybe six years ago — I think it was Wesley Davis’s monthly there called Textures that he was doing at the time. We ended up playing at Textures together later for the first time we played publicly.

What kind of music did you two originally connect on?

Howell: I don’t remember exactly, but we started trying after we moved in together in this tiny Barnum house. The first public things we played were mostly experimental and ambient — a lot of liminal spaces to try to feel out what would happen. I don’t know that we knew where to meet musically at first. Dan was playing synthesized music and was into making techno and ambient, mostly on his own. I had only ever done non-synthesized music like oboe and orchestral things, minimal keyboard percussion, singing, some acoustic guitar and saw, and the last project I had done was a folk duo where I sang. Where those things met, Lux Hearse began.

Can you explain the creative dynamic between you two?

Howell: We are often in different headspaces in how to approach developing and fleshing out a song, so often that part is more separate. We are hard-headed in opposing ways, but in the beginning of making new sounds, that part has always come together pretty easily, and we do build off of each other in an organic way that feels right. If we don’t have a starting point, finding a good patch and saying, “Let’s do a drone tonight,” is usually enough to clear the air for something to happen, something to be lost in.

What has been a summary of your experiences within the Denver DIY scene?

Howell: Overall I feel like it’s been hard and a little heartbreaking in regard to finding spaces [to play] in Denver as a city, but the musicians and supporters that are still here were here, and...have been so fiercely talented and kind. They inspire me and surprise me all the time.

How was this EP made?

Howell: Dan had his patches set and was writing over a couple of weeks. I made my way onto the [Roland] Alpha Juno and in my notebook for words, and it came together initially in a live take or two. Afterward, it came into its final form with a lot of work on Dan’s end mastering, with help from sending to friends for their opinions on the sound and bringing it back into the studio, listening to it on loop and trying to master it the way we heard it in our heads.

Dan Coleman: We recorded this live, one take, so all mixing and effects are being handled during the performance on my Mackie 12 channel [mixer], then sent to my computer to record. Any further mastering was done on the finished recording — one track, left and right channels. For this recording, we used some dub recording techniques to resample through outboard gear and layer, then fiddled for sixty to eighty hours to get the master where we like it.

With all of those hardware synthesizers, how do you make sure that you maintain your patches?

Howell: Luck and scraps of paper.

How often have you lost nearly everything and had to start over?

Howell: Often. Late-night sessions and assembling live sets on old synths with limited memory sometimes led to accidental overwriting of things we’ve been working on. We’re trying to get better at making copies and backing up data, but it also allows us to resurrect things we still want to finish, and they come back much more interesting. Also, shit is ephemeral and life moves on.

Fata Morgana is out now on Bandcamp.
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