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Into the Tesseract with Charle Wallace

rapid pi movement

A dance between Rust Belt minds.

By kiernanlaveaux


Charle Wallace and I are connected by threads of circumstance—transmogrified individuals colliding somewhere in the Rust Belt chasms of Pittsburgh, both arriving there after time spent growing up on alternate shores of Lake Erie. Through a series of fortunate events, we met and quickly bonded over cooking, nonsensical giggles, science fiction, the infinite potential of all things, the fine line between horror and wonder, and a mutual appreciation of cacophonous musical dreamscapes.

Since then, they’ve become a super inspiring and welcome force in my life, unafraid to perform immersive live electronic sets in all sorts of places—fog-filled ambient dens, transsexual bathhouse basement noise shows, lived-in rooms—all the while conducting environmental choruses through their Tascam recorder, burgeoning Minilogue orchestra, and whatever other simple pleasures they have up their sleeve.

“Sometimes noisy, sometimes danceable, always expansive.” Charle Wallace’s palette often mirrors the clouded, ominous skies and delightfully uneven landscapes of Pittsburgh: flora, fauna, and the rusted-out churn of industry fusing into a combustible union, calcified in steel. Elements of this are distilled on their 2023 EP Windowed, recently reissued on cassette via the playfully strange Pittsburgh imprint Cleaner Tapes.

Windowed finds them blending defiantly minimal, polyrhythmic drum programming (reminiscent in the best way of one of my favorite artists SSPS) with their vast personal library of field-recordings—resonant, personal snapshots of the place where our natural world intermingles with the human spirit.

As coarse as an ocean’s roar and as delicate as petals caught in a summer wind, Charle Wallace’s sound is a chimerical blend of ritual and trance across medium, creating galaxies of spiritual lucidity guided by the universal metronome, in communion with objects at rest waiting for their equal and opposite reaction. Their work also expands beyond the confines of DIY electronic music into the realms of the written word, film, and television scoring, highlighting the literary and cinematic qualities of their artistic output. 

One of their recent works is for Huli,” a short film directed by Daniel Croix revolving around the journey of two boxer friends living in Hawaii. Addressing U.S. history and the effects of colonization, “Huli” connects the struggles of Black and Native Hawaiian liberation movements, the dual-powered dissonance of both general trauma and generational amnesia, and the unattainably toxic realities of the so-called “American Dream.” Charle Wallace’s music is the perfect accompaniment to a piece like this—one can’t help but feel like their music already soundtracks a film we all have yet to make, and a future we have left to build together.

In conclusion, Charle Wallace and I have shared the deepest of deeply depthful conversations, rocked out together in metaphysical planes, and even stopped to smell the flowers on the way. They helped me realize I’m a poet, and I didn’t even know it.

Charle Wallace - wind owed
Charle Wallace - wind owed

What does this track mean to you? Does it have a story?

“wind owed” is a bonus track on Windowed, which was rereleased by Cleaner Tapes in February. Windowed as a whole was a practice session for a live set, and I wanted to keep that same kind of ethos with the bonus track. 

I think of this track as a brick of sound. It’s pretty static, minimal, and contains the basic ingredients of a Charle Wallace tune—monophonic analogue synth, drum machine, and field recordings running through effects on my mixer to create a lively drone. It’s a sequel, addendum, postscript, and a bit of a goodbye to the Windowed era of orchestration, as well as a bridge toward the music I’ve made since.

How do you feel about your nightmares?

I’m grateful that my nightmares aren’t as frequent or intense as they used to be, but I used to have night terrors every night, without fail. The nightmares are probably a form of processing trauma, but they also feel like a portal to other dimensions. I have seen, smelled, and witnessed the most fantastic and horrible things in my dreams. They’re vivid, cinematic, and architectural, which I think I take into my music.

What was your dream last night?

I dreamt that a friend of mine had a stalker, and we were trying to evade him on the Paris metro. There was a lot of intricate blocking and movement: hopping escalators, slipping into train cars at the last second, running up and down flights of stairs. I’ve never been to Paris.

Are you living any of your dreams?

As a kid, I wanted to be so many things: a violinist, a writer, a physicist, a witch...and I am, in a roundabout way, doing all of that. I think of myself as a composer and sound artist. Physics comes into my study of sound and synthesis, the way I think about psychoacoustics, the missing fundamental, ear tones… Thank you for asking that actually, I feel like I’m living up to my child self!


What does Charle Wallace mean to you?

“Charle Wallace” best represents me as an androgyne—I’ve always thought of myself as a soul trapped in a form for this tiny lifetime. But I cribbed the name from Charles Wallace, the intuitive boygenius in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In the third book of that series, Charles Wallace rides with a unicorn to witness the birth of the sound of the universe, where “ long as the ancient harmonies were sung, the universe would not entirely lose its joy.” Period! 


How does the power of imagination affect your work/life?

I have a weak imagination and a strong memory. Most of my “imagining” is actually just recall of existing details or experiences that I then recontextualize. Or, if it feels fully imagined, I believe it’s real somewhere else. So I want to imagine a better world, and it often feels impossible. I get discouraged easily, feel sickened by the violence and cruelty we witness or are subject to on a daily basis. 

But navigating the physical world using the field recorder’s mic as my ears has changed me forever. The act of listening preserves my sense of wonder at this physical world, when I so often yearn to go home to the spiritual plane. Listening feels like an act of love. I do think that the key is to listen, go inward towards love, and give love to others, one person at a time. This Earth is so small and each life is a Universe. I love that paradox. 

How important are your surroundings to you? What have your surroundings been like the last few months? 

My brother and I have this joke that when you’re from Buffalo, it makes the world a more beautiful place. The Rust Belt was a rough yet visually striking place to grow up. You can see the future there—what it looks like when the land reclaims abandoned development. There were wild turkeys running around the East Side, which is kind of magical. In Pittsburgh, it’s deer.

With doing so much field recording, my sense of place deeply involves soundscapes. Pittsburgh, which has been my home for the past four years, sounds like a series of bowls with a sea sloshing around it. I like to think that it’s because the land there is a prehistoric ocean floor, but it’s really just the sound of the highway. There are wooded parks to escape to, but you can always hear the traffic, which sounds like a chorus pad to me. 

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past couple months, not far from Griffith Park. L.A.’s air sounds thinner, everything carries farther. And high up on the mountains and hills, it gets really quiet and dampened—but the rock is energetically Loud! I was surprised by how few birds are around, but I guess it’s March. I love how the hummingbirds sound here. 

Each place has its own frequency. I’m always trying to tune in to the one that feels right for the season of my life. 

I hear you snore and clack your teeth to the rhythm - let’s discuss that?

Gotta record it for DJKL to mix! 

But yeah, I sometimes have songs floating through my head as I fall asleep and my teeth will clack out a line from the tune. And I always snore. My partners have a lot of grace.

What are your thoughts on being sleepy in the club?

Always sleepy…! I have hEDS, so my body often hurts. At the ideal club, there’s always a place to sit, close my eyes, and absorb the subwoofer. I love how many people have come up to check on me (“Are you okay?”) while I do this, whether in Pittsburgh, Detroit, or New York. It says a lot about the culture/community that we check in on people who might seem sick or too high. Anyway, I’d love if we could talk more about accessibility in dance spaces, in general. Crip Rave, based in Toronto, is an org/party I’d like to connect with in the future.

Tell us about any new projects you have coming up.

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some film projects. I’ve just completed sound design for an indie sci-fi/horror feature called Inter-State, making the alien sounds and general scary auras. And Huli, my brother’s short film that I composed the score for, is hitting festivals now. I’ve loved working on movies and hope to do more.

As far as solo stuff goes, I’m wrapping up an EP coming out this year called Music for Mime, which is, in my opinion, “classical” music—still electronic. And more that I will keep under wraps for now!

Cover photo by Karma. Additional photo by Gregory Hatton.

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