♫♪  Bret Koontz - low light trades

Catch a quick minute with new Bret Koontz release, low light trades, on Planted Tapes, and find a part of you that never existed. Close blends of jazz with hints of folk in a poised environment that just surpassed the renaissance, old-school, but pushing it the right way. Like the lines of privacy and secrecy, and exploring the in-between. Walks along with guitar to storytelling, blooming song-writing that’s rarely heard in our WiFi, BluTooth, [electronic, generally] environment. Or like “Remembering when..”


6/13 - Pilsen @ Slow Pony Project
6/17 - Logan Square @ Café Mustache


So TMT took the connect to Ben Koontz and got a few Q&As for a little more intimacy in low light trades:

Within what chamber did you make Low Light Trades?

I recorded Low Light Trades in a coach house on the western edge of Logan Square, Chicago. If you walk up on it at night, it bears more than a passing resemblance to a haunted house. I remember when people would ask me what I was up to during that period I would tell them I was making a ‘bedroom recording that isn’t going to sound like it was recorded in a bedroom.’ For the ambient sound that serves as a backdrop for the album closer “On Weird Lake,” I placed a mic on my windowsill and got a field recording of the odd combination of nature and city sounds I hear most nights. If you listen closely right before the fade out you’ll hear a distant motorcycle barreling down Fullerton Avenue. The songs were written there and at Situations (an underground venue I lived at for a number of years) with the exception of “Nashville,” which I wrote sitting in my kitchen in Pilsen one afternoon looking at our half-broken stove.

What sort of Low Light Trades have you made in your lifetime?

Well the album title definitely has a double meaning. On the one hand, there’s trades as transactions, which for me would include the exchange of emotional support, physical affection, love, and loyalties—the sort of interpersonal things that take on a more self-reflective tone at, say, three in the morning on a Sunday. Then on the other hand you have trade as a job or skill. Musicians or anybody involved in touring or running any sort of venue are often plying their trade in near darkness: arriving after sundown, discussing the evening’s business by the light of a beer sign, packing their gear in a dark corner with a flashlight. It also struck me that in terms of environment, some of these songs would probably best be appreciated with the lights dialed down a little bit.

Who else was involved in the making of Low Light Trades besides yourself?

I needed a violin part for “The Claim,” one of the more country-sounding songs, and Ian Bertorelli was kind enough to come over and do it. I was hearing a pretty typical Mark O’Conner sort of part for it, but he showed up and was able to do something much more nuanced in three or four takes. That part really makes that song for me.

What were the least and most familiar pieces of equipment you used in Low Light Trades?

While I was recording percussion parts for Ruthless, I borrowed my roommate’s castanets and had to teach myself how to do a roll with them, that iconic ‘clickety-clack!’ I was in my closet in front of the mic telling myself ‘don’t go crazy, you’ve only got to get it right once.’ That should probably be a universal motto or something for people trying to produce their own albums!

Is Low Light Trades more of an adventurous album to you or an album that’s to be listened to during a weekend night in… to you? Is it an inside or an outside sort of album?

I think as an album it touches a few different areas in that respect. Like I mentioned before, I think a lot of them would make for some good introspective dusk listening. But the song “Walk,” for instance, has a good vibe for hiking a winding path. I modeled that song after Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn a little bit. It’s about going on a walk through woods and meadows, having ecstatic visions, and then being overtaken by those visions and kind of losing yourself. So there’s a bit of adventure in that one.

Are any of the songs on Low Light Trades about specific people in your life?

They are more amalgamations. With the autobiographical songs on this album, I was more writing about scenarios in my life that seemed to repeat themselves. “Spain,” for instance, addresses the bitterness, judgement, and false victimhood you feel when someone leaves you when your life is already on a downswing. I’ve been on both sides of that (as I think most people have) more than once in my life. So in retrospect, once you have some distance, it’s more about the patterns of behavior than who exactly did what, y’know? But in the moment … The opening track, “Games,” is about all of my close friends and the people I regard as compatriots or ‘contemporaries.’ It’s about the things we do to try and create real magic in our lives and how we won’t be tamed no matter how hard outside forces try to scare us straight. There’s too many to list here, but you could say they’re definitely silent partners to the album as a whole.

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

Most Read