AN INTERVIEW WITH CoH – The Visual Data of “To Beat or Not to Beat”

by JC Gonzo

Russian-born, Sweden-based CoH is the clever moniker of Ivan Pavlov, a sound artist, engineer, and musician. Translating to “sleep/dream,” CoH stands as Ivan’s most prolific endeavor, though other notable projects include Soisong with Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and a record with Cosey Fanni Tutti. CoH covers a broad electronic spectrum; toying with expectations of glitch, noise, and industrial as he weaves them together into something atypical.

Video by Jeremy Rotsztain

This week CoH’s brings us his latest, a 2xLP release of TO BEAT OR NOT TO BEAT, an “deep easy listening” double album of abstract techno and complex structure. Praised as a “strange emulation of dance music,” TO BEAT’s special 2xLP edition features an exclusive set of remixes from Matmos, JG Thirlwell, John Parish, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Drew McDowall. In tandem with the release of its very own Vimeo channel featuring visual renderings of the tracks. These music videos range from program generated graphics to surprising lyrical interpretations. We spoke to CoH about his relationship with the moving image:

You just launched a special Vimeo channel, will each track of TO BEAT OR NOT TO BEAT feature an accompanied video?

CoH: The COH Vimeo page was first launched together with the release of TO BEAT CD a few months ago. I do have a few friends who work in video art and cinema, I was also approached by some people I didn’t know. Realising there are very few “official” COH videos made over the last 15 years, I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of imagery the music can inspire today. With the release of TO BEAT OR NOT TO BEAT 2xLP, three more music videos have been published, thus covering most of the TO BEAT album. I am still hoping for one or two more visual interpretations.

Many fans have made visual interpretations of your work. Are these current selections collaborations between you and the video maker or more like curated commissions? Are you surprised at what they come up with?

CoH: It is all very loose. I generally like people to have fun with what I record and so the video artists, naturally, have full freedom as to what it’s going to be like. I do not contribute until, perhaps, the very last stage, with some final comments or advice, if I’m asked at all. Yes, there are very surprising contributions. In fact, in different ways I find them are all quite surprising. A very diverse collection of techniques and imageries, which together communicate that sense of fun, of genuine excitement—something that I find quite important in my own work. Far more important than the notions of, say, conceptualism, professionalism, or modernity, for that matter.

Video by Aleksandar Koruga who sent the music trough a “cellular automation mapped to a quantum lattice,” a patch originally designed for a physics experiment, developed by Alexander specifically for audio particles [thanks to Francesco Todescato.]

Are visuals becoming more important to you?

CoH:  For many years I have been consciously avoiding the apparent trend of audio-visual art, especially where it comes to live shows, sticking with the idea that music should be able to convey images without any additional help. However, in the last year I was lucky to start working with Tina Frank and I found the combination of her live analogue video and COH’s sound to be quite powerful. So, yes, maybe the visuals do become more… well, not important, but more interesting to me in relation to the music. Perhaps, also more “feasible,” as I always had a hard time finding a proper image that would work with COH’s sound. Here is a little snippet I filmed at the last Rotterdam Film festival – pardon the cellphone quality, but it gives an idea what Tina’s approach is like:


Have you played with manipulating moving images yourself? Does this field interest you?

CoH: Definitely. I have playfully mixed a few videos related to Soisong, a project we had with Peter Christopherson back when he was still with us. Generally, I wish I had more time and skills for working with image, I feel I have some potent ideas… which probably goes for just about everyone!

TO BEAT’s more “dance-oriented,” although some of the remixers aren’t associated with “dance.” What compelled you to involve such an amazing bunch of artists to remix it?

CoH: TO BEAT follows the previous album RETRO 2038. In a way, it’s a return to what I was toying with on the first COH records back in the 90’s, a slightly nostalgic look from today’s perspective. COH records tend to avoid clearly pronounced beats and it was unusual for me to try and make a whole album where everything is padded with a beat. The new 2xLP includes remixes for TO BEAT and it’s called TO BEAT OR NOT TO BEAT. When asking friends to make these remixes, I offered to them the freedom of deciding for themselves whether to use a beat or not, so I didn’t think about “dance music” at all. As for why I invited just this particular “bunch of artists,” I must say they are all people who I deeply respect for what they are capable of, and yet who I did not know exactly what to expect from. I was not mistaken—every single remix came as an exciting surprise, not to mention the waiting itself! Altogether, it’s an honor to receive such a generous treatment of TO BEAT by others, exposing it from different angles both visually and sonically. Quite unexpectedly, this offers an insight I haven’t had before. A peculiar view, I admit, and yet – very joyful!

Video by Dustin Dis


coh to beat or not to beat

Purchase TO BEAT OR NOT TO BEAT here.

Subscribe to CoH’s Vimeo to view more.


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