Andrew Senna Archive


Paint, Print, Glue and Burn: The Process of Making Handmade CDs

1. Blank chipboard 2. Coated chipboard 3. Printed flat 4. Glued, assembled and wrapped

The packaging of music has fascinated me for years. I have always had a fetish for CDs, cassettes and LPs. When CDs were packaged in larger rectangular cardboard boxes (probably to be more like a rectangular record) I used to keep the front and backs of the boxes and hang them on my wall. I lamented the record companies going the way of just shrink wrapping and stickering the cases closed. Those stickers still piss me off.

When I decide on what packaging I am going to use for a particular release it typically comes down to whether I am going to make the packaging myself or if I am going to find outside help. Every release Aphonia produces has a specific design goal and this usually stems from the art and cover design itself. In years past both Ben and I would design some artwork ourselves (with input from the artists) and we still do from time to time. Lately we have preferred the input of artists and designers. A lot of whom, do this very incredibly beautiful work without pay or only by trade.

When I end up with a proof for artwork it is at that point I figure out exactly what it will take to have the artwork translate to a hard copy. Over the years I have whittled down what kind of packaging and process seems to work the best. In recent years, I have come up with a unique process to creating physical releases with real impact… and it hasn’t been an easy process. For instance, it has taken a great deal of wasted paper and ink to transform a rather drab, yet sturdy, chipboard blank into one of our more recent releases L.A. Lungs Letting It All Bunch Up shown below.

This past week I have been assembling this release and it is the result of several years of refining the do-it-yourself look but with the challenge of making it look polished. The process involves many steps and personalizes each and every copy that is purchased. First, we have raw ingredients, purchased from several vendors. I have found what chipboard, paint and inkjet printable CD-Rs work best for our limited means. Yes, I use CD-Rs. We have had professionally pressed CDs and vinyl done for us, but not everyone needs 300 or 500 copies to sell. Ultimately, the argument about whether a professionally pressed CD is better than a CD-R will persist no matter what arguments I offer here. That is what the “Comments” section is for!

After printing directly on the brown flats with my large Canon Pixma Pro for so long, it was always apparent that colors just did not pop. Most of the time this hasn’t mattered so much. Having so many releases based on black and white designs makes the end translation, from PDF to paper, quite simple and predictable. Even so, black on brown doesn’t have enough contrast. After experimenting with different coating inks, I found one white water soluble ink that works well to provide a white base on the chipboard. The effect of which can be seen below.

Why do this to brown chipboard? Why not buy white pre-coated blanks or bleached chipboard? Well, for whatever reason the brown chipboard always made the inkjet printing appear sharp, while the coated ones would smear and the bleached ones would bleed. This just isn’t an issue with the brown chipboard.

I then print the inkjet color on top of the dried white chipboard surface and get varying results based on thickness of the white ink on each blank. Since I coat each blank by hand, this lends each piece a hand painted/crafted look. No single piece is quite alike as you can see more clearly by a group of these blanks lined up below.

So obviously, they are still flats and must be glued together and this is when the assembly line begins. I glue the flats together and stamp the serial numbers on each one.Simultaneously, I am burning each silver coated, silver bottomed CD-R. I often have two computers burning at once, at a low burn speed. Once I have completed the printing and gluing of the jackets and the burning of the CDs I move on to create the design and print the disc art – that is, actual imagery on the face of the physical disc.

Just as the outer cases have been given serial numbers, the actual CD-Rs themselves all have sequential serial numbers. Each disc is prepared in the disc printing software with the serial number and then printed. This process can take a great deal of time as this is a product that is made from the ground up.

The first five completed pieces with serial numbers hand stamped on.

So this was brief but it might beg the question: why bother telling the world what this process is? To me, I find a certain satisfaction from producing these releases, from taking simple ingredients and making something that is ultimately worth more than the sum of its parts. The other part of it for me is that it embodies the intention of the artists who spend years of their lives cultivating and refining their process, their composition, their sound. Although not many of our artists elucidate their process or intention, as art is left more for interpretation and we would prefer to leave it that way. After all the art isn’t for the artists alone – it is for the audience.

This is where I part ways with the artists on our label. Yes, ultimately, these discs are for an audience as well. We call them customers or distributors but that is not really who they are for, that is their function. The CDs true purpose is create an artifact, a fetishized product for the artist to profit from and for the audience to desire.


Kristian Garrard: From Electroacoustic to Acoustic

Luke Bergman and Kristian Garrard at Aphonia Recs Showcase April 2008

Kristian Garrard (KRGA) & Luke Bergman are Thousands.

In the past 4 and a half years our label has gone through many changes and growth spurts. Our artists are no exception. I have seen many of them play their first shows, go on tour, later to dissolve, reform and reinvent themselves. Kristian Garrard is one such individual.

I recall meeting him very early on in the Aphonia Recordings journey. Ben had met another Max/MSP composer and was extremely eager to have Kristian release something under his moniker KRGA. Later we would tap Kristian to play many of our showcases. Ben and Kristian even hosted a Max/MSP workshop at Gallery 1412, detailing the cryptic under the radar manipulations that many disavow as mere knob twiddling and laptop music. Yes, Kristian performed with a laptop but the results were simultaneously engaging, sedative, dynamic and, at times, frightening. Some of the best performances I witnessed during our run of showcases were shows in which KRGA was the headlining act.

By the summer of 2009 it was clear Kristian was onto other material. By this time he had released his first EP Magic Wand [AR014] and the full length June [AR016CD]. Both were mere snapshots of a larger musical genius at work. I had known that Kristian had been a drummer in the band Joules and that he was a blossoming master of electroacoustic improvisation. It was with his formation of Lonesome Shack and Thousands that is became clear that there was little Mr. Garrard could not do.

A few months back I passed by Kristian on Ravenna Boulevard where we both live – we are neighbors as well. I had no idea that this casual passing was on the brink of Thousands getting signed to UK imprint Bella Union. Yes, the very same Bella Union that signed Seattle’s Fleet Foxes in addition to Andrew Bird, Wavves and Midlake. Very good company, indeed. Hearing the news that they had been signed took me back to a show that Kristian and Luke had played at one of Kristian’s last appearances at our showcases.

Fully expecting to hear KRGA’s signature hum and layered developing/enveloping textures, I asked what he and Luke were doing there with a guitar and an upright bass. “Are you gonna hook that up to your (Max/MSP) patch?” I joked. Kristian something like, “Oh we are just going to play acoustic… no mics.” I knew some direction had changed for Kristian and while I knew him to be a consummate performer, he and Luke’s short set that night headlined a night of ambiant and noise music like no other. The strains of Kristian’s particular weaving chords, half resolutions and sustains and Luke’s persistent and hardy upright bass backbone ended the evening with a tribute, a lullaby that later would morph into Thousands.

Recently they have been playing sold out shows, completed a successful tour of Europe and were rightfully praised in Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger. Mr. Reighley describes their sound: “Like a shadow that cannot be divided from the entity that casts it.” Well said, and best of luck to our pals, Luke Bergman and Kristian Garrard.

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Derek M. Johnson & Andrew Senna to Embark on Western US Tour

Famed cellist Derek M. Johnson (Olympia, Wash.) and Aphonia Recordings co-founder Andrew Senna (Seattle, Wash.) are to begin touring the western United States this February. These two longtime friends and musical companions begin their tour in San Francisco on February 19th. You can check their Myspace pages out for full tour listings to see if they will be in a town near you:

Derek’s Myspace

Andrew’s Myspace

These guys will be serving up both melodic and droning noise for your aural appetite. Derek employs hand treated slides projected on an enormous screen to augment the expansive sounds he derives from his carbon fiber cello.

Andrew on the other hand will be colliding field recordings, analog synth warbles and spacious rolling electrified folk songs out towards the mountains.

This is the first tour both have them set out on, so go out and support them, buy their CDs and enjoy what will most likely be a provocative and nutritious musical buffet.


Ben L. Robertson : Farewell Seattle show (August 14th)

Note: Photo has nothing to do with performance.

Hello Everyone,

With great anticipation & some sadness, I would like to invite each of you
to my last performance at Gallery 1412 prior to my upcoming relocation to Spokane, WA. As many of you already know, I was recently accepted into Eastern Washington University’s Masters in Music Composition program & was, subsequently, chosen for a Graduate Assistantship within the Department. Needless to say, I am VERY excited.

You may be asking yourself, “What will become of Aphonia Recordings?” Fear not. Andrew will continue to maintain label operations & booking in the ..Seattle.. area, while I open the “Eastern Washington Branch” of Aphonia Recordings & continue to host shows in Spokane. Rest assured, we can all look forward to more releases & performances now from both sides of the mountains!

The Friday’s (August 14th) showcase will feature a number of unfamiliar takes on performance strategy & new interactivity. For example, cellist & master slide-projectionist, Derek M. Johnson will be performing an all acoustic set on a foreign instrument. If we’re really lucky, he might even coax out a Styx cover or two!

Likewise, Aphonia Recordings’ better-half, Andrew Senna is planning to perform
a rare solo set of original songs & noise textures that stradle the precious line between cathartic folk hymns & narrative sound-design. Finally, I will be performing a duet with violinist, Jackie An (New Red Sun, Whiskey Romance). This indeterminate piece is modeled upon an algorithm that extracts pitch data from two performers (Jackie & myself) & generates, by means of a logical system of microtonal counterpoint, new audio content in a manner akin to the improvisations a third, phantom performer.

With all of this mind, please stop by Gallery 1412 this Friday at 8:00pm (sharp) to hear/see all of this new work. Since this performance will be my going-away party of sorts, there might even be cake (????)

hope to see you there!!!!!

Aphonia Recordings : 09 – viii / Going-Away Party
1412 18th Ave – Seattle, WA
8:00 pm

Andrew Senna
Derek M. Johnson
Ben L. Robertson w/ Jackie An


1st Aphonia Recordings Comp Now Available Online!

For the first time we are releasing the first ever Aphonia Recordings compilation. Originally only available on CD it now is available on the our website at less than $5!!! Artists on the compilation include Darwinsbitch, KRGA, Marriage + Cancer and special compilation only track by Aphonia Recordings co-founder Ben L. Robertson.


Buy Now / $4.99


Benefit for the Olympia Experimental Music Festival


ADDITIONAL NOTE: Show starts at 8:00 PM sharp

For 14 years, the Olympia Experimental Music Festival has been an amazing asset to the NW experimental music community. This year, Aphonia Recordings will be hosting a benefit show to raise money for this year’s festival (…travel expenses for artists, promotion, venue rental etc.. This stuff isn’t free!). In addition to performances, we will also be holding a raffle & silent auction for awesome prizes donated by NW artists & musicians, including: CD’s, LP’s, reel-to-reels, random audio gear, & one squirrel costume (donated by Red Squirrels).

Please show up the benefit, donate generously, buy raffle tickets, bid on a rad prize or two, & support the festival……It will make you a better person!

A number of Aphonia Recordings folks will be performing at the actual festival in Olympia (ie. Paintings for Animals, Darwinsbitch, & a collaboration between Ben L. Robertson + Gabe Will (violist – Problems)).


Shows: June 2008


Aphonia Recordings 2008 Performance Series #6:
Friday, June 6th
Gallery 1412 (1412 18th ave – Seattle)
$5-15 suggested donation

-Paintings for Animals
-Penny & Her Lowercase Kindred (Olympia/Reno)
-The Precambrian


Heavy drones, overtone melodies, and the sound of the land – Paintings for Animals performs with field recordings, bowed metals, mixer feedback, throat singing, vocal blips, clicks and the buzz of electronics. Started 2001, in Seattle by Pearson Wallace-Hoyt, the project is maintained to provide a platform for the proliferation of spiritually charged noise and a revival of ritualized sound. With members dispersing to Bali, Kolozberg, New York and San Francisco, Paintings continues to craft a truly Cascadian music of chants, esoterica and the sounds of urban & natural environments.


Penny and Her Lower Case Kindred is a medley of shadow puppets, an adjustable stage, a variety of keyboards and organs, a synth, a loop station, a head mic, vacuums, strobe lights, fake blood, real blood, some drums,internal dialogue exposed… Unicorn: “We began hosting on-stage forums a couple of years ago once we realized that it was unfair to monopolize Penny’s brain.” Cher: “I wouldn’t really call it a forum…more like the sound of 15 minute recesses from the other side of the chain-link fence. Lots of piercing noises and academic purging.”


Aphonia Recordings’ founders, Ben L. Robertson & Andrew Senna, team up to explore the spectral transfiguration of minute sounds & vocalizations. In concept, The Precambrian is a sequence of interactive synthesis environments, engineered by Robertson using the graphical programming language; Max/MSP. Often drawing from his background in sound design for film & theatre, Senna utilizes a handful of homemade piezoelectric transducers, microphones, & field recordings to interact within each of these unique synthetic environments. The result of this interaction is a performance which resembles a series of absurd, one-act narratives.

Jun 05 – 9:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Le Voyeur (Seattle, WA)

Jun 06 – 8:00P Aphonia Rec. Series 6 @ Gallery 1412 (Seattle, WA)

Jun 08 – 8:00P The Precambrian @ The Blue Moon (Seattle, WA)

Jun 14 – 8:00P Agnes Szelag @ 21 grand (Oakland, CA)

Jun 18 – 8:00P Old Number Sevens (Phonon) @ the Tractor (Seattle, WA)

Jun 20 – 8:00P Benefit Show for the Oly Exp Music Fest @ Gallery 1412 (Seattle, WA)

Jun 24 – 6:00P Paintings for Animals @ Henry Art Gallery (Seattle, WA)

Jun 27 – 7:00P Ben Robertson + Gabe Will @ Olympia Experimental Music Festival

Jun 28 – 2:00P Paintings for Animals @ Artopia film show (Seattle, WA)

Jun 28 – 6:00P Darwinsbitch @ Olympia Experimental Music Fest (Olympia, wa)

Jun 29 – 7:00P Paintings for Animals @ Olympia Experimental Music Fest (olympia, wa)


Series 4 Podcast: The Precambrian

A little late this month, The Precambrian performs at the Gallery 1412 on April 4th 2008.

Series 4 Podcast: The Precambrian


2008 Performance Series: pt III + Compilation CD Release Party

We are pleased to announce the release of Aphonia Recordings’ first CD compilation! Copies will be available for sale at our next showcase (Friday, March 7th). The compilation will feature choice tracks from: Marriage + Cancer, Desolation Wilderness, Giant Expanding Pictures, KRGA, Daedelum, Andrew Senna, Unicorns in the Snow, Planar Defecs, Myello, Darwinsbitch, & Ben L. Robertson. Come out, support our artists, and buy the comp!

Desolation Wilderness is Nicolaas Zwart. This project has changed gradually in focus from the simpler, synthesizer heavy, beat driven songs of its first netlabel releases on AudioTong and Test Tube to a more processed distillation of ideas concerning song structure and electronic noise, as show by later work released on Benbecula, K Records, and Aphonia Recordings. Currently, Desolation Wilderness draws influence from grainy film soundtracks, ’50’s and ’60’s radio pop, and INA-GRM musique concrete. In performance, Desolation Wilderness has evolved from a solo laptop setup to its latest incarnation as a live ensemble.

Myello Electronics is the project of Olympia based composer Daniel Farrell. Many divergent influences have inspired myello to create music, which often hints at a wish toward dance, while being motivated by an interest in textures and awkward composition that somewhat undermines that aspiration. Farrell understands the compositional choices he makes to be informed and influenced by chance events, improvisation, societal pressures (the clutter of modernity), consumer electronics, credit cards, disposability, mercury, and plastic bags.

Founded by Adam Reza & Chris Hanis, ph0n0n creates soundtracks with elements of microtonality, chance processes and live improvisation. Aphonia Recordings recently welcomed Ph0n0n to the label and we are greatly anticipating their debut release.


Aphonia Showcase: Gallery 1412 (26 October – Seattle, WA)

Aphonia Recordings’ debut showcase in Seattle will feature a set of compositions
for voice & electronics by seasoned Seattle-based improviser &
multi-instrumentalist, Amy Denio. Also hailing from Seattle, Kristian Garrard (of
‘Joules’) will be performing an electroacoustic set as KRGA.

From the south-sound, Aphonia Recordings welcomes Derek M. Johnson and Myello.
Derek M. Johnson’s work for cello & electronics has been heard at numerous
experimental/improv festivals, including his active involvement with the Olympia
Experimental Music Festival. Derek’s past collaborations have included work with
Unwound, Old Time Relijun, Le Ton Mite, and many others. Likewise, Myello’s set
will demonstrate no shortage of LFO’s, VCF’s, and other acronymous controlled
voltage devices.

Rounding out the evening will be a performance by ‘the Precambrian’, a
collaborative project featuring label founders Andrew Senna & Ben L. Robertson.
Their performance promises to pair Andrew Senna’s work in narrative sound design with Ben L. Robertson’s obsession with microtonality & interactive
processing algorithms. Contact microphone mayhem & max/msp antics are sure to abound!

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