Image: Poison Abbey – supplied.
Author: Melody Menu
Welcome to the Killer Female Talent spotlight: a monthly-ish column dedicated to shining a greater light on female and gender non-conforming artists in the music industry.
Listening to the music of Poison Abbey, you may think it to be the sleek soundtrack to a cult film you’ve never seen, rather than the debut musical offerings of Sydneysiders Jess Rogleff and Thomas Studans. Rogleff’s vocals are buried so deep within her dense production of loops and samples that, paired with Studen’s stylised basslines, create so much glamour and intrigue. The inclusion of various cinematic Bruton samples provide more sonic textures with each listen, conjuring images of low-lit dance clubs, wrapped in velvet.
Ahead of their appearance at Vivid Live in association with Dinosaur City Records, Rogleff takes time to talk through her creative process, trawling through online music libraries.
Melody Menu: How did Poison Abbey take shape?
Jess Rogleff: Poison Abbey took shape after a year or so of experimenting with synthesisers and rhythmic guitar styles as well as loop-based and chop-and-screw sampling styles.
Tell us a little about the track ‘Upmarket’.
Upmarket is a dramatic and texturally dense pop/jazz fusion thing written about nobody in particular. It’s built around a bunch of 8 bar Bruton library music loops which we beefed up with extra guitar melodies and a huge vocal lead.
How did you come to use Bruton samples in your music?
I was buying old records for a while which is an expensive thing to do, especially if you want to use them for sampling and only end up using one track or something. So I started digging on Youtube. I was really into Italian lounge and easy listening from the 60s and 70s which I found a kind of dissociative comfort in, kind of like being in the elevator of an expensive foreign hotel. I think the Bruton composers were a bit obsessed with this slightly camp idea of futurism which is amazing to listen to contemporarily. Then again, they were using a lot of cutting-edge synthesisers for that time. You can hear those old Moog filters pretty distinctly. It would have been amazing to compose for a major library like that in the 80s.
What do you most enjoy about using ‘found sounds’ and samples in your work?
I think sampling in terms of making a new song out of an old song is an extremely innovative tool, it’s like making a collage or putting together a puzzle. Orchestral music is cool to cut up and recontextualise because it’s nearly impossible to have those really lush recordings like strings on a track if you only really have access to a laptop and DAW. Fitting a sample from another song over your own beat with your own harmonic additions in a tasteful and original way is frustrating but very rewarding.
How has your classical piano training influenced your work?
Moderately – it’s good having theoretical knowledge of such a forward-facing instrument. I’m not good at playing guitar which often bothers me but the amount of things you can do on a keyboard is practically limitless.
From the synth lines to the saxophone, your sound has a particular nightclub/dance-all-night feel. How important is this idea of exploring a sense of time and place for you?
I’m a very visual person so often imagining a fictional place where Poison Abbey could be played is super important.