A Day in Bel Bruit Album Cover
An interview with ambient artist Lilien Rosarian about her 2019 release, a day in bel bruit, depicting an abandoned village and its glitch ambience.
Young Fenimore Lee | June 09, 2020

“spending a day alone in an abandoned village/where a satellite dish/has been haphazardly built upon the bell tower/and radio sounds now replace those of the residents” - these are the words that accompany the bandcamp page of Lilien Rosarian’s debut 2019 album, a day in bel bruit. The village produces a remarkable forest of sounds, creating a meld of harmony and unquantized rhythms. As the wind blows, the radio swells, and the tape loops whir along, set into motion by destiny itself, the interdimensional roads that lead to the imaginary place, bel bruit. To fans of a day in bel bruit, you’ll know that not much is known about Rosarian besides her status as a New York based ambient artist, but her work displays talent amongst the greats in the genre. We sat for an interview with Rosarian to ask her about her life amidst COVID-19, tape loops, and mysterious villages.

A Day in Bel Bruit Album Cover

Young Fenimore Lee: First off, I just wanted to congratulate you on all the positive attention that a day in bel bruit received from the underground music community. How has that positive attention affected your musical life? e.g. how your musical processes, perhaps, have changed since putting out the album, how you’ve thought about your own music, etc.

Lilien Rosarian: Well, I am so glad that people are actually listening and enjoying it! It’s definitely beyond what I expected, so I’m super happy about that! It still feels really odd to me, since I really keep to myself and this is the first art that I’ve released to the public. It’s just really bizarre and heartwarming to see people care about something I made locked in my room over a couple of years. It did kind of take me an embarrassingly long amount of time to get everything where I wanted it, mostly because I hadn’t finished any of my projects before this.

Though I’m happy with what I made, I’m now definitely sick of the “environment” of the album, and I really want to make sure whatever I do next is significantly different in that regard. I mean, I wouldn’t really describe the album as very serious or dark or anything, but recently I’ve just been wanting to make music that’s more lighthearted and playful as a whole. I’d also like to shift the way I structure songs into something a bit less rigid. For example, I’ve been trying to make the majority of my next album in one project file. It’s honestly mostly a horrifying mess of many dozens of tracks, but I also feel like it gives me a lot more freedom and ability to make all the parts melt together.

YFL: a day in bel bruit is really strong from both a conceptual basis, in that every small detail serves the concept of the album. How did the concept of an abandoned village producing radio noises come about? Did you think of this concept as you were recording the album or before you started?

LR: It was definitely thought of as I started recording. The concept is basically what I pictured in my mind very early on when I was working on what would become “the bell tower.” I just felt like it had this odd mix of emotions, this lonely yet grand mood that I imagined as a centerpiece of some location (or an album). I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea initially because I didn’t really know if I could make it work, or how closely I should try to tie in the theme with the music. The main reason I wanted to do the concept at first was because I find that it’s really helpful to have specific goals to shape the music into. Every track is made to feel like a different time of day, for example, and generally the first half are the daytime songs and the latter are nighttime. There’s obviously a limit to how specific you can tell a story with only instrumental music, so rather than do that, I was mainly just trying to get across what the place generally sounds like, though I did usually have specific pictures in my head for all the tracks. The concept on its own really isn’t the most unique thing ever to be honest, but I think it did help me give the songs more life than they otherwise would have had, and so I’m glad with how it turned out!

YFL: The album also shows a lot of experience with experimental ambient music. How did you come upon experimenting with tape loops, glitch music, collage music, and all the technical aspects of producing ambient music?

LR: I would say my music techniques are mainly a result of my love of loops and sampling. The main reason I started using tape was because I wanted some kind of hardware sampler, since I was getting tired of staring at my computer screen to make all my music. So I basically just use the 4 track with only cassette loops as my sampler, and those recordings are the basis for the majority of the tracks on the album. My favorite thing about it is how unpredictable the rhythms tend to get, but having it play back in a loop kind of solidifies that imperfect rhythm. It can be very limiting at times, but there are a lot of fun and unique things you can do just from recording and playing back the audio in various ways.

I guess I really like glitch music mostly because I’m very interested in sound processing, and particularly simple techniques that can completely change an audio signal when you go far enough. Glitch seems like one of those genres that highlights that the most without any boundaries. As for collage music, I’ve always been drawn to music that sounds very meticulously patched together, yet very free and unconstrained (what first comes to mind is The Go! Team or Black Foliage by The Olivia Tremor Control). It results in a totally unique sound; you can obviously tell it took them a lot of effort to get every piece in the right place. I’m kind of sad this type of sound isn’t more common. I don’t go very far into it with my album, but I actually find it deceptively challenging: although you can just mix any sounds together at any point, you have way fewer preconceptions of what will work.

YFL: What are your favorite ambient musicians? One musician that comes to mind when listening to your album is Emily Sprague (who primarily uses modular synthesizers for her work), in that both your work and hers are strengthened greatly by powerful harmonic and melodic interest.

LR: I appreciate the comparison, Emily’s music is awesome from what I’ve heard! I think my favorite is currently Foresteppe. I’m not totally sure how to best describe his music, I’d say it goes between post-folk, loop-based ambient, and field recording collages. It feels very human, with lots of shimmery textures and woozy tape sounds, and it’s always beautiful and everyone should listen to it. Another is sora, who only made one album in 2003 called re.sort. It’s easily the comfiest album I’ve ever heard, and it’s one of the only things that always makes me calm and happy whenever I hear it. (Please make another album, sora!)

Glitched-Out Lilien Rosarian Portrait

(Photo courtesy of Lilien Rosarian.)

YFL: Tell us about your musical origins. How long have you been making music? How did you start, and who influenced you (whether it be famous musicians or people in your personal life) to pick up an instrument?

LR: I think I’ve been making music for around 7 years or so. I was into a lot of instrumental hip hop at the time, and most of my inspiration came from artists that had very creative uses of sampling. If I had to make very rough comparisons, I’d say my early music was a bit similar to The Avalanches, The Books, or Neat Beats - still very sampled based, occasionally including some added instrumentation. I played drums and piano as well, but I wasn’t the best at combining everything together (I’m still not). I was mostly just learning though; there’s still some little bits and pieces that I’m proud of, but it wasn’t until I got more into ambient a few years later that I started making more stuff that I was completely happy with. I also look up to my brother a lot; he’s super talented and I learned a lot making music with him (hopefully he releases something soon).

YFL: Do you have any future musical plans that you can tell us about? Do you have any releases lined up for this year?

LR: I would like to release something as soon as I can! I am working hard on it; my music workflow is just kind of a mess at the moment. I’m still trying to get a music setup that feels more natural and so I’m testing a lot of different things, which can get time consuming. I’d also really like to make something that isn’t ambient at some point, and I’ve been (slowly) working on that as well. So - I guess something this year could be maybe possible, but I can’t say for sure.

YFL: Tell us a little bit about your personal life. What do you do for work? What are your other non-musical passions? How has COVID-19 affected your life?

LR: I’m not working at the moment, but I just graduated college this semester. I’m trying to dedicate a lot of time to music now, but I have also been wanting to get better at coding, visual art and statistics (though I am currently not that good at any of these things). I guess COVID-19 mostly is affecting me mentally. My daily life hasn’t really changed all that much, but it all feels a lot slower. I’m starting to get back into habits though and be more productive / exercising more / eating healthier - so it’s going okay.

YFL: Thank you so much for answering my questions - your album was truly a joy to listen to. Please take care, and good luck!

LR: It’s my pleasure! Thank you for asking me to do this & sending me questions! <3

To support the music of Lilien Rosarian, purchase her music from lilienrosarian.bandcamp.com and follow her on twitter. Please consider supporting artists through direct purchases during this pandemic.


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Editor-in-Chief
Young Fenimore Lee
(he/him)
Pictured: Henry, his pet Jellybone

Young is the child of two Korean musicians and was born and raised in the Chicago metropolitan area. They identify as queer and non-binary. They’re currently going through emocore/screamo essentials, and they love indie rock, indie folk, emo, post-hardcore, and math rock. Feel free to take a look at their rateyourmusic account, their last.fm, and this collage of the 100 albums they consider most personally important.