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Madison’s Noxroy and Chicago’s Forest Management capture an experimental affinity on new split

 “Linx” showcases each musician’s evolving approach across four tracks. (Image: Detail from the release’s cover art.)

Madison-based musician Andrew Fitzpatrick, who makes solo music under the name Noxroy, met Chicago’s John Daniel, best known for his solo project Forest Management, when the two shared a bill last April at Communication with Milwaukee percussionist Jon Mueller. From the audience’s perspective, the most memorable image that night was Mueller surrounding himself with gongs to perform one of his characteristically demanding solo sets. But Daniel and Fitzpatrick also made strong impressions on listeners and on each other, both creating experimental electronic music that doesn’t slot easily into any one subgenre or approach.

“Andy kindly hosted us in Madison and also played the gig,” Daniel says. “His set blew me away. Afterwards we briefly chilled, talked a bit about music and I was introduced to Butthole Surfers (Locust Abortion Technician is so sick). The following morning I shared an idea for a split with Andy.”

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The resulting release, Linx, came out in late December on Daniel’s Reserve Matinee label, and comprises one long track from Noxroy and three from Forest Management. The two didn’t go into the split with any particular theme in mind. “We were familiar with each other’s work and I think we trusted that we’d both come up with music that would make for an interesting listen when paired together,” Fitzpatrick says. Even though the two created their tracks for the release entirely separately, putting together a split can still be a rewarding collaborative process, Daniel points out: “It’s a beautiful thing to do that ‘exchange’ with another person—that’ll never get old.”

The two tend to approach their work with a mix of wandering curiosity and refined if unusual technique. It’s easy to hear the affinity between them across Linx, even if the two halves of the split seem at first to be coming from very different places. The release is a quiet highlight in what has been a very busy year for both artists. Fitzpatrick became a member of Bon Iver in 2015, and in 2019 played on that project’s third full-length album, i, i. Fitzpatrick continued to play synths and guitar in the band’s live incarnation, which toured Europe and the U.S. last year. Forest Management put out at least five albums and EPs in 2019, culminating in the November release of the album After Dark.

Linx begins with Noxroy’s 15-minute entry, “Rice,” which focuses entirely on synthesizers, expanding upon a body of work that has combined modular synths with software and heavily processed guitar. “Rice” drifts through a bit of everything Fitzpatrick has explored with synths so far, from harmonious, pillowy layers to rough-grained abstraction, from gentle rhythms to free-floating swells.

“The music on my side of the split doesn’t really have much to do with my other musical endeavors, other than the fact that a lot of it was recorded while I was on tour with Bon Iver,” Fitzpatrick says. “I’ve been recording a lot of synthesizer improvisations at home, and lately I’ve been bringing a synth case on tour to mess with and record stuff during my free time. I picked up some Serge modules earlier this year that have been very inspiring—they make a few appearances on the tape. I took a similar compositional approach with my last solo work, Protomontage, although ‘Rice’ is a lot closer to a live performance.”

Forest Management, meanwhile, harnesses scraps from our sonic periphery. Daniel is always composing, rarely just droning. He seizes on the whispers and rustles we barely hear in day to day life, transforming them through both harmonics and sound design. His ambient music, if you really want to sum it up that easily, steers away from the extremes of bleakness and bliss. “I-90” showcases Daniel’s ability to bleed atmosphere into gentle swirls of melody. “Across The Way” sculpts rough recordings of classical guitar into displaced, liquid melodies.

“I’ve kept this Yamaha classical [guitar] at my parents’ since high school, and made some phone recordings when I was home last autumn,” Daniel says. “I felt inspired to use new instrumentation, and the track is about this feeling of closeness in the Midwest.”

Noxroy and Forest Management did play a release show for Linx in Chicago this December, and hope to get a Madison show on the books sometime soon. Fitzpatrick has Bon Iver tour dates to play in Asia and Europe this year, and says he’s currently working on a new live setup for Noxroy. Daniel plans to slow down his prolific solo releases in 2020 and focus more on live collaborations. The two don’t have specific plans for another collaborative or split release just yet, but both see Linx as the beginning of something. 

“‘Linx’ was on a list of names we ended up choosing from after the split was complete,” Daniel says. “With wordless music, especially when it’s a shared place between two or more, there’s often this unspoken understanding of letting the sound speak for itself. Linx seemed to represent the album’s vibe (and in hindsight, Andy and I’s connection) the best.”

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