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Christopher Willits

Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and filmmaker Christopher Willits makes warm, immersive electronic music that fuses digital and analog elements. Fittingly for an artist who regularly teaches both music production and meditation classes, he uses innovative technology to create his reflective compositions. He first received attention during the early 2000s for his melodic glitch albums such as 2002's Folding, and the Tea ("folding" being Willits' term for the nonlinear resampling process of his custom-designed software). Albums like 2006's Surf Boundaries explored shoegaze-influenced avant-pop, while later efforts such as 2019's Sunset and 2022's Gravity contained Willits' most purely ambient work. In addition to extensive collaborations with Taylor Deupree and Ryuichi Sakamoto, he has regularly worked with Tycho, and collaborated with Kid606, Matmos, and Zach Hill in the experimental group Flössin. He is also the co-founder of creative community Overlap and spatial audio platform Envelop. Originally from Kansas City, Willits studied visual arts at the Kansas City Art Institute and played guitar in a band called Saturn 138 during the late '90s. He completed a master's degree in electronic music at Mills College in Oakland, California. While a student, he began releasing CD-Rs of his processed guitar experiments. After Willits played a show with Taylor Deupree in San Francisco, his debut full-length, Folding, and the Tea, was released by Deupree's 12k label in 2002. The two began collaborating, and joint release Invisible Architecture #8 appeared on Audiosphere in 2003. Willits' solo recording Pollen, cut in 2001 and intended to be his proper debut album, was released by Fällt in 2003. He also issued a limited 7" single titled Little Edo. He continued releasing collaborations in 2004; Mujo (with Deupree) appeared on Japanese label Plop, while Ache released Lead Singer, the debut from Flössin, an improvisational trio also featuring Miguel Depedro (Kid606) and Zach Hill (Hella, later of Death Grips). A third release with Deupree, Live in Japan, 2004, was issued by 12k in 2005. Willits began working with Ghostly International after label founder Sam Valenti IV heard the composer's music on a compilation issued by 12k. After contributing the piece "Breathe (In 7 Sections)" to Ghostly's SMM Vol. 2 EP in 2004, Willits' first album for the label, Surf Boundaries, appeared in 2006. Far more accessible than his previous releases, the record featured numerous guest musicians, including Medicine/Electric Company founder Brad Laner and singer Latrice Barnett. Also in 2006, Ghostly released The Right Kind of Nothing, Willits' full-length collaboration with Laner under the name North Valley Subconscious Orchestra. Listening Garden, a collaboration with Deupree designed for an installation, was released by Line in 2007. The solo EP Plants and Hearts appeared on Room40 the same year. In 2008, Willits' first collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ocean Fire, was released by 12k. Flössin's Serpents EP, with Willits and Hill joined by Matmos rather than Kid606, arrived in 2009. Willits' second Ghostly full-length, Tiger Flower Circle Sun, appeared in 2010, continuing with the abstract pop style of Surf Boundaries. After Flössin's second album, White Anaconda and the Rainbow Boa, came out in 2011, Willits' second set with Sakamoto, Ancient Future, was issued by Ghostly in 2012. Opening, featuring instrumental contributions from the members of Tycho, appeared in 2014. In 2017, Willits released his score for the music documentary The Art of Listening. During the same year, Ghostly issued Horizon, a spatial audio album. Sunset, designed as a soundtrack to that very event, appeared in 2019. By the time Sunset was released, Willits had recorded guitar improvisations at a temple in Japan. The material formed the basis of his next album, assembled in Oakland, Oahu, and Kansas City, as he took care of his ailing mother. Gravity, made with the intention to heal, was issued on Ghostly in 2022.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo


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