Duologue: Foam and Sand

photo by Neil Kryszak

Already well established with over a prolific decade of composing, producing, and performing music behind him, Robot Koch recently introduced yet another dimension to his creative sphere in the form of Foam and Sand, an ambient project which grew out of his experimentations with tape loops in his Los Angeles studio during the early days of the Covid pandemic. Embracing the organic simplicity and “beautiful imperfections” of these sounds, Koch has gone on to create two albums under the new moniker, the second of which is on the cusp of release. In this duologue edition, he speaks with us about the Foam and Sand project, the new album, and why he chose the circle as such a prominent motif. So, grab a pair of headphones, make yourself comfortable and enjoy!

First of all, what motivated you to start the Foam and Sand project?

It started during the first lockdown in 2020. I started experimenting with tape loops and made these lo-fi ambient tracks. The music had a really soothing effect on me, so I decided that I wanted to make more of it and also share it. No one knew it was me for about a year. I released some singles and EPs under the radar and then revealed Foam and Sand as a new ambient project by Robot Koch in 2021.

What if anything did you do differently when approaching the new album? Do you feel like the Foam and Sand sound is evolving?

It`s still the same approach, i experiment with textured sounds and embrace the subtle imperfections of tape loops to create something that feels warm and soothing. The sound has evolved in a way too. I started incorporating more instruments and also vocal textures.

It doesn’t take a long time to make music as Form and Sand. It just comes together more quickly because of the nature of the music itself. I try not to overproduce and let the process emerge more organically.

I am intrigued by your choice to give somewhat generic names to every track on ‘Full Circle’ as well as the new album. What is your thought process there, and why choose the circle as the common element?

The circle is referencing the tape loop. But it`s not a static, prefect loop. It´s unsteady and alive. I called these tracks circles when i started working on them, those were the working titles, i just called them circle 1, 2, 3 etc. When the time came to give “proper” name to the pieces i realized that it felt contrived to name them differently. They were Circles and the name made the most sense to me.

Also, the circle is a fundamental geometric shape that can be found throughout nature. And nature is my biggest inspiration on all of my work, The circle can be seen in the shape of planets, moons, and stars. These celestial objects move in circular orbits, and this circular motion is responsible for the cycles and patterns we can observe in nature, like the changing of the seasons, the tides, and the migration of animals.

The circle can also be found in the patterns and cycles of life itself. For example, the circular nature of the water cycle, in which water evaporates, rises into the atmosphere, and then falls back to the earth as rain, is mirrored in the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth that we see in many aspects of the natural world.

Lastly, the circle can also be seen as a symbol of unity, wholeness, and balance.

When working as Foam and Sand, is there a particular instrument or piece of gear you usually start with to develop a new piece?

A lot of the tracks start around a piano Idea. I also write on piano mostly.

Can you tell us a little bit about how the collaborations on the new record came about? I find it interesting that you chose very warm and organic human sounds like voice and brass.

Yes, I love the human voice. I didn`t want to have traditional vocals on the tracks with lyrics but just use the human voice as part of the sound palette. I love using these sounds as humming or toning.

Vocal toning is also a form of sound healing that I recently discovered during a plant medicine session, that´s another story, but in a nutshell, it involves making sustained, single-toned sounds with the voice. I started using this technique in my meditation practice. Also known as Humming, these sounds can help to balance the energy centers of the body and promote emotional and physical well-being by restoring harmony in the system.

Music is very autobiographical, and this music definitely reflects where I am at in my life. The simplification of my process speaks to how I’m not very attached to material things at the moment—even my studio in Los Angeles is stripped down compared to what I used to have in Berlin. My philosophy is that less is more.

The visual element of Foam and Sand is quite striking. There is always fabulous artwork from album & single covers to videos. What are your objectives for the project in that regard?

The artwork for this album was made by James Nolan Gandy. He creates his art with Drawing Machines. And he creates his art from a space of vibrational awareness, which feels very closely related to how i create music. And the mechanical movements of the drawing machine he interacts with have some kinship with how i work with tape machines. It´s the opposite of AI generated art (or music). It`s a human interacting with old-fashioned mechanical gear in an idiosyncratic way.

This project seems very conducive to expansion through reworks – whether reworking your own material, as you did with ‘The Next Billion Years’, or others reworking your Foam and Sand tracks as on ‘Full Circle Reworks’ (both great albums, btw!). Do you see this as an important aspect of the project?

Yes, the aspect of revisiting and reimagining a body of work is important to me and is part of my creative process. I think an album, or a piece of music, is never finished. It was also be revisited and there is always some new angle to experience it from.

How do you balance developing Foam and Sand with our work as Robot Koch? Do you allocate time to each project or is it more a matter of feeling driven creatively toward one or the other more so at any given time?

I just follow my intuition on this. At the moment i have a lot of fun creating music as Foam and Sand, so i follow that. But I do have a few Robot Koch tracks ready for release as well, which will come out this year too.

Finally, any plans or events upcoming for any of your projects that we should be keeping an eye out for?

I started working with the Monroe Institute, the leading Institute for Research and Education around consciousness. We work on projects together that combine my music with their Brain Entrainment Technology which assists the listener to enter states of expanded awareness. This is all stuff I’m very interested in, so I’m excited to explore this further.

Foam and Sand will be released March 17, 2023, by Nettwerk Music Group. A virtual album release party will be hosted by Nowhere on March 16 featuring 360-video projections and a live Q&A with the artist.

More Info: Bandcamp | Link Tree | Robot Koch website | Nettwerk Music Group