Michael Bentley  - The Foundry MICHAEL BENTLEY

visual - audio - text

An Introduction

Michael Bentley is the founder of The Foundry label, and has produced a body of work consisting, in the main, of chapbooks, albums, and videos. Bentley has recorded under several names besides his own [eM, The Apiary and Rhomb (with Nathan Kreisberg)], releasing a number of EPs and CDs of electronic and experimental music on his own Foundry label, as well as the Irish label Fällt (as eM, Import was part of the invalidObject series) and SlapArt (the Retrograd cassette EP as eM). Bentley has also been included on CD compilations from MIT Press' Computer Music Journal (Winter 2000), No Type (as eM with n.kra on The Freest of Radicals), Little Fury Things (as eM for the No Compression Festival comp) and aquaFM (ambient@hyperreal vols. 1 & 2). Michael has worked with the Archipelago collective on both releases (Bibimbap in 2004, the Islands EP series in 2000), and performances (the monthly Archipelago LIVE series Feb.through May 2004). Video work, most often presented as part of Bentley's live shows, has included the Chronos & Kairos, St. Michael Oubliette, and Scenes from Thing Asunder.

With full time jobs in graphic design and photography, as well as serving on the board of directors for two non-profit tax-exempt organizations, Bentley's activities for The Foundry have been curtailed in recent years, but his passion for, and commitment to, his creative work continues.

Michael Bentley grew up in various Midwestern towns before his family moved to Berkeley, California, and has remained in the Bay Area for many years after graduating from UC Berkeley. Bentley currently works as a freelance graphic designer, photographer, non-profit director, musician and founder of The Foundry.

Bentley composed and recorded electronic music sporadically for a number of years, often collaborating with long time friend Nathan Kreisberg (most recently as Rhomb), until settling into a MIDI based studio set-up in the 1990s which created a more consistent working environment and allowed more consistent output. Along other lines, Bentley's interest in traditional and folk music of the British Isles (especially that of Scotland), has lead to appearances at music/dance festivals locally and abroad (including the Czech Republic, Austria, and Norway), as well as performing and recording gigs on both east and west coasts of the US. For more information on his Scottish music output please visit Beehaus Musick.

The Foundry, originally begun in 1985 as an umbrella for publishing chapbooks, emerged as an outlet for Bentley's musical endeavours in 1995. After several cassette releases the first Foundry CDs were issued in 1997. The Foundry catalogue has garnered critical praise (see review index here) and airplay throughout Europe, Australia, the US and Canada. In 2001 The Foundry began a collaboration with the Hypnos recording label, resulting in nine releases over the next 14 months. In 2003 The Foundry split from Hypnos and struck out on it's own again, releasing a further eight albums before suspending operations after celebrating it's 10th anniversary in 2007.

In 2005 Bentley initiated the Floating Points podcast series as a way to present the work of Foundry associates directly. A podcast, like it's ancestor the radio broadcast, allows for explanation and conversation, and Floating Points has given Bentley an opportunity to provide a context for the work of The Foundry and its associates.

The Foundry originally came into existence in 1985 as an imprint under which Bentley published his own chapbooks, and starting in 1995 his many musical endeavours and collaborative projects as well as further graphic arts work.

"The idea of collaboration and communication between artists is vital to what I see as The Foundry's mission," says Bentley. "The projects with The Archipelago collective (the Islands EPs and Bibimbap), creative compilation work (360°, sub.terra, and Fluidities) and my own work with painter/installation artist Charles Browning have all explored various approaches to collaboration. Over the years our audio work has garnered critical praise (see our review index for details) and airplay throughout Europe, Australia, the US and Canada, so we have been getting the work out into the world!"

"The name Foundry cropped up sometime in the early 1980s," Bentley explains. "I was working on a fictitious record label catalog as a portfolio piece, and one of the releases I created was called Where We Build Our World by The Foundry. The name stuck in my head, and when I started to put together chapbooks, in 1985, I decided to use The Foundry as my imprint. When I began assembling cassettes of my musical projects (circa 1995) it seemed like an appropriate name for a label, and the phrase and former title where we build our world was not a bad conceptual starting place."

Bentley continues, "the word foundry had captured my imagination because of it's many shades of meaning and implications. There are different varieties of foundry: those that produce machine parts, horseshoes, or even type - I was doing a lot of typesetting in those days... in fact the eM monicker was first suggested by the em space, a unit of measurement. I also thought of the foundry as a place you rolled up your sleeves and worked with your hands, a technique I still try to employ even though most of my art is, at this point, assembled in the digital realm. Foundries have also had a pivotal role in developing technology, as a place where machine parts were made and refined, for instance, and this seemed like an amusing connection to the machine music I was creating. There is also an implicit alchemical reference since the heart of a foundry is the furnace, a device central to many alchemical transformative processes. I see my Foundry as a place where machines and technology are used as tools to perform magical operations, where emotions and intuition interface with science and knowledge in an attempt to create a new world communicated via sound, image and words."

After several cassette releases in the mid-90s, 1997 saw the release of the first The Foundry CDs; eM's Djinn, Eclectronica, and The Apiary's Descent. In early 1998 Rhomb's Hidden Topographies completed the initial conceptual quartet. Reaction was positive, with reviews appearing in print (The Wire, Option, Outburn) and online (Vital, Amazing Sounds) media outlets. In early 1998 Stephen Fruitman commented, "on the strength of these four CDs released in just over a year's time, The Foundry label has quickly established itself as a label worth keeping a very close eye on."

The journey is ongoing...