Found Sound: Holy Strays

The Parisian producer invites us into his surroundings with a unique field recording.


Words by: Aimee Cliff

Parisian producer Holy Strays, or Sebastien Forrester, made this surreal, stitched-together stream of field recordings as the latest instalment in our found sound series, in which we ask artists to send us recordings they’ve made of the sonic atmospheres that inspire them. Ahead of his brand new EP, which he says is coming in the next few months, Seb took the time to talk us through his habit of keeping a sound-diary and exploring the suburbs of Paris for inspiration; stream the found sound and read our Q&A below.

Hey Holy Strays! Could you tell us a bit about the recording you’ve sent us?

Seb/Holy Strays: “Hey Dummy, this is an edit of chopped and screwed street ambiences from various sources and time periods I thought I’d like to see reunited as a whole. All these sounds are part of my own ‘folklore’ in a way. It’s pretty interesting to marry atmospheres and textures that would have never been able to meet realistically. It’s almost like writing short stories: you take a piece of a dream or a striking memory and imagine a whole new thing with it.”

“I often record the noises around me – I usually wander and place my mic here and there to capture a stunning energy or a sound texture that kind of blows me away, etc. I collect them on a regular basis and try to build something special out of what I notice in my environment. I’m just keeping a diary, it can be sounds, words or visual elements.”

“I also record a lot of rehearsals and improvisations, on this one I’ve included snippets of me performing with one of my jazz ensembles at the conservatory.”

Do you think your found sound piece is representative of your work in general?

Seb: “I think it could be, yes, in a way, but I’ve not necessarily tried to shape it with a particular idea in mind. Luckily my work as a musician has always been very diversified, I’ve realized it has become important to me to adopt a wide vision of writing music. But it’s more difficult to keep everything at the same place too – another reason why I started this project. I use it as a laboratory.”

“I’m also fascinated by old records and live recordings, all these ambient noises and fading textures that make them intense and immediate… I love how an old Ahmad Jamal live record from the 1950’s can have this timeless, spaceless feel to it. All instruments melt, there’s no room for egos, everything mixes perfectly. This kind of alchemy is one of my ultimate goals. A lot of the recordings I reuse in my own tracks – and this one is an example – were born through the same process I reckon: a loose, spontaneous need to record sounds or write music and then a thoughtful assemblage of them all through production.”

Living in Paris, do you find being out and about in the city a major source of influence and inspiration?

Seb: “Sure, but not necessarily from a musical point of view. Its cultural and artistic background is obviously hugely inspiring. No one here can deny it I guess. There’s always a lot to discover, it’s such a beautiful place. I love exploring the city, its energy captivates me. You can be overwhelmed by huge amounts of sounds and buried in complete silence and darkness a few seconds later. It’s always shifting and moving faster than you are. Sometimes I try to capture its liveliness – which presupposes a lot of observation. Though I’m not always that confident as a townsman, Paris and its suburbs have always had a big impact on me.”

If you were only able to hear one sound in the whole world, what would it be?

Seb: “Her soft, peaceful heartbeats and breathing at night when everything is so quiet.”

What can we expect from you in the near future?

Seb: “Holy Strays’ debut EP is finished and should see the light in the coming months. It’s made of songs I wrote around the same time period Christabell was released last year. One of them will soon be unveiled. I already have tons of written pieces and sketches on the way for a proper first album, probably early next year. I’m also working on adapting those tracks to a live set-up, trying to keep their instant, raw energy. Then I’d really like to produce for other people and collaborate, try and do soundtracks as well maybe, tour, learn, travel and experience.”

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