My name is Angela Lin, and I began Pure Person Press as “a love letter to Taiwan.” Like most love letters, the process of writing is often more for the person in love than the recipient of that love. I treat Pure Person Press in the same manner. These releases are more a space for myself and the artists I work with to grow and understand ourselves. For each album, I work closely with the artist, getting to know their thoughts, philosophies, and musical styles intimately. The goal for the album release process is to be more of a cathartic release than a physical one.
I am very proud to welcome our latest artist No Translation to the label. No Translation is Emma Palm, a Joshua Tree based musician who uses field recordings, vocals, and modular synths to create personal soundscapes. “Inner Distance” is No Translation’s album debut on Pure Person Press. The album uses field recordings from both Emma’s life in Joshua Tree and her Mother’s life in Taiwan to create a healing space. The first time I heard this album, grief washed over me. It was immediate and soothing. This is meditative music, but in its bones there is a deeply restrained sense of longing:
It has been 4 years since Emma has last seen her mother. Emma’s mother, who struggles with paranoia and bipolar disorder currently lives in Taiwan. After being estranged for years, their relationship began again over the phone during the pandemic. Soon, to learn more about each other, they started sending each other field recordings which became the basis for her album:
“The last time I saw my mom was also the last time I was in Taiwan. I miss both my mom and Taiwan. I would hear her voice through our calls, but I wanted to feel closer. One time, she took a trip to Mingchih forest in Taiwan and made a recording of a chorus of frogs and bugs at night. She was telling me about how beautiful it was on the phone and mentioned that she made a recording. I asked her to send it to me. I loved hearing something that she experienced, enjoyed, and had a personal moment with. Those are moments when I start recording sounds too. It made me feel like I was sharing that intimate moment with her.”
Emma created the track “Moon Hours” during the evenings in Joshua Tree which coincide with mornings in Taiwan. These “Moon Hours” are a pocket of time where Emma can spend time with her mother.
Emma lives in the desert. Its energy seeps into her music and plays an important role throughout the album:
“I live in Joshua Tree, California. It’s hot and dry with long stretches of land and mountains, open skies, and a permeating stillness. It really couldn’t be more different from Taipei, Taiwan where my mom is. Wet, hot, cramped with lush forests and skyscrapers.
When my mom and I used to live around each other in California, we would sometimes take a trip to the desert. When we talk on the phone now, she tells me how she wishes she could see the stars and the open land again, it was so healing for her. But in Taipei, she feels cramped up in a small apartment, with lots of large crowds on the streets, and a constant smog that never lets her see the stars.
Soon before I moved here, I had a visit where I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. I cried because it was so beautiful that I wished I could just give my mom that sky. Give her that beauty.”
The track “Every Presence” is one of the only ones on the album that exclusively samples sounds from Joshua Tree. It contains recordings of Emma walking around the desert and wind chimes of a distant neighbor. In this track, samples from her mother’s life are not needed. Her presence is everywhere, even when Palm is in the desert alone.
The tracks on “Inner Distance” often sound like memories fading in and out of clarity. By combining the sounds of two respective worlds, Emma has created a moment where mother and daughter can coexist regardless of distance.
“Many of these recordings are simple moments in our lives, both mundane and beautiful. Moments where we appreciated the sounds around us enough to record them, moments we wanted to share with each other, moments where we were just being ourselves.
…Putting our recordings together made me feel closer in a sense, like being together. But we’re not. There’s also that distance between us physically, that reflects in our environments, our daily lives. Which, day to day, are totally different.”
“When it’s Raining” consists of the sounds of shared memories and space, the artist also playing with our relationship to time. Some of the recordings used on the album were recorded within the same day.
Recently I’ve realized I should call Pure Person Press “a love letter to my mother” instead of “a love letter to Taiwan.” I suppose it could be both. I moved to Taiwan in direct response to my mother’s passing in 2018. My mother’s last words to me were over the phone: “Move to Taiwan.” I’ve always been a good kid. I moved to Taiwan within 3 months of her passing.
I chose to release “Inner Distance” on November 22, 2021 – the three year anniversary of my mother’s death. I believe that even after someone dies, there are times when your spirits can yearn for each other so deeply that they can meet again. I believe that when I am thinking of my mother and she is thinking of me, even if we are unaware physically… we are somewhere together.
We are together on a gold morning at the top of a mountain in Kending. We are together in the dark night when I am alone in bed, a raw hole gnawing in my chest. We are together when I am with my sister, the two of us laughing at the past. We are together when I listen to music: an imagined future glowing bright.
This album is truly a gift for both Emma’s mother and mine: a new space where we can meet our mothers again.