Frédéric Arbour, based in Montreal, Canada, is the man behind the new dark ambient project Instincts. The debut release of Instincts, “The Mystery Visions”, was a collaboration with graphic artist Bustum. For this release Arbour has founded his own label, Cyclic Law. Recently a second high-quality release appeared on this label, a fine dark ambient sampler called “Nord Ambient Alliance”. And more interesting stuff will follow…

Frédéric, can you introduce yourself, your musical project Instincts and your label Cyclic Law in a few sentences?

InstinctsMy name is Frédéric Arbour, I`m the sole person behind the Dark Ambient / Neo Classical project Instincts. I`ve also founded Cyclic Law, wich was first established to release my first full length album and wich has now expanded to release the music if various artists evolving in the Dark Ambient genre.
I am located in Montreal, Canada.

When did you start with Instincts, and were you involved in music before?

InstinctsInstincts`s aural form first emerged around 1997 after a transition from my previous duties behind the drums of various grind / speed formations. I played drums for 8 years before beginning Instincts more than 5 years ago as a solo experience. I also used to play flute and the organ as a kid.
The Instincts album “The Mystery Visions” is a collaboration with visual artist Bustum. Can you tell us something about this artist and the cooperation with him? I believe you also contributed photography to the artwork?
Well, Yvan Arsenault aka Bustum has been a friend of mine for the past 10 years and a room mate for more than 3 years now, he’s a gifted visual artist with a strong affection for unusual antique objects and art books. We thought of joining our creative forces to put together a split project of my music and photography with some of his collages a few years ago. The idea finally materialized in January of 2002, with the final result being the release of the Instincts/Bustum(The Mystery Visions) CD and at the same time the foundation of Cyclic Law and Yvan’s Bustum Press.

The artwork is looking very dark and apocalyptic. Is there a unifying theme on the album?

There is not an exact concept behind the release, we both contributed work that we felt was of interest and combined it. Yvan took care of the artwork for the layout, he is the one responsible for the obscure imagery.

The music you make is predominantly instrumental, apart from some samples (did I hear Charles Manson?). Don’t you think the absence of lyrics is a hindrance to convey meaning? Or can the music speak for itself?

I certainly do not think that instrumental music conveys less meaning than music that is accompanied by vocals. I chose to use various quotes from different sources that expressed thoughts or emotions I related to. I can’t say that there will never be actual vocals on some of my songs, but for now I felt like keeping it to a minimum, and yes, you did hear Mr. Manson.

I do feel that music speaks yet not for itself, meaning that everybody reacts differently to various music. Thus 2 people given the same aural experience will have felt/heard different emotions resulting in a different perception of significance.

What kind of equipment do you use for Instincts? And how does your typical composing process look like?

I own a Korg N364 music workstation and use it as my main sound source, I also use percussions and acoustic guitar wich i now record on a Pro tools system operating on a Mac G4 computer. The album was recorded on a Paris System at a friends studio.
As for the process of composing, either a melody suddenly comes up and i sit down and compose / record the base for a song or I play my keyboard until something worthwhile takes shape.

What made you decide to start your own label? Weren’t there enough good labels around?

InstinctsIt had been something I contemplated for quite some time and to be sincere I did not think that someone would be interested in releasing my album. Me and Yvan really wanted to do this project so we both invested in the release of the Instincts / Bustum CD.

I felt it would be a more gratifying experience to take the risk of releasing it myself and now I`m quite glad I did, as the response has been quite positive and other collaborations are on their way wich makes this experience even more worthwhile. The next Instincts album will probably be released by another label although I do not know for sure wich one yet.

Both the Instincts album and the compilation “Nord Ambient Alliance” stand out for their special design and packaging. How important is the visual side for you?

Well, it is quite important to me. I really like the combination of music and visual aesthetics, it makes releases more interesting, I do it to bring back a little bit of the excitement I used to have when buying gate fold LP`s with inserts, textured cardboard etc. and also the smell these release had…The end result becomes a complete stimulus of the sences. The uniformity of most of todays releases in jewel cases is, I find, of really poor taste. I despise jewel cases…

How did Svartsinn and Northaunt from Norway, Predominance from Germany and Kammarheit from Sweden end up on a compilation from a Canadian label?

Well I was first in contact with Herleif from Northaunt after a post on the CMI list seeking musical projects for his upcomming compilation, The Last Bleak Days, wich was then released on his label, Bleak Records. I had sent him one track from Instincts wich he included on the comp. and we have stayed in contact since. So when I in return offered him to take part to the N.A.A. he gladly accepted. Jan from Svartsinn, wich is a good friend of Herleif contacted me after hearing my track. I had heard his music through and when the time was right I also asked him if he`d be interested in taking part to the N.A.A.

As for P`r/Kammarheit, I think a link from Svartsinn`s page led me to his page and I contacted him after beeing quite impressed by his work, a good friendship ensued and Cyclic Law will now be releasing his first proper full length in January of 2003. And last but not least I contacted Gerd of Predominance asking him if he`d be interested in contributing material for this project and he accepted without hesitation.

Can you tell us a little bit of what to expect of the upcoming releases on Cyclic Law?

As I mentioned above, the Kammarheit full length CD will be released in January of 2003 in a limited edition of 500 copies. I`ve also recently been kindly asked by Peter of Sophia to release his upcomming work. This will be released as an LP in Spring 2003 in a limited edition of 500 copies also. This is what is planned for now but be assured of great things to come!

And do you have any other future artistic plans?

To complete Instincts`s next full length album and also keep working on this other musical project I have in wich I compose on guitar and keyboards, I play with some old friends of mine and the music is in the Slow Funeral Doom vein.
I`m also working on another side project with only field recordings as the sound source but this is still in an embryonic stage. Photography and video is also something I work on when I find the time.

When listening to the Instincts album, I hear a mixture of dark ambient, with some neo-classical and a few more militant elements. Can you tell us something about your musical tastes at the moment?

Well this album was completed more than 2 years ago with some of the songs beeing 4 to 5 years old… but at the time and to this day I`m quite immersed in the Cold Meat Industry sound. Neo Folk and the likes has also been a good companion for many years now. So I could say that my musical tastes are well reflected by what I compose and also what I release through Cyclic Law.

I read that Instincts will have its first live performance in December. What can be expected of that?

I`ve been working on a visual concept for Instincts`s live performances with video projections of Natural landscapes and also torches and bon fires will be lit. There will also be an emphasis of percussions to render a slightly more martial feel.

I read that you live in Montreal, Canada. Is there a lively music scene there? And do you think that the environment where you live affects your music in any way?

InstinctsAs for Dark Ambient/neo classical/folk etc. as we know it, there is absolutely nothing of the sort here. Most live performances in the genre consit of experimental/noise acts wich I personally do not enjoy much. Hopefully with the establishment of Cyclic Law there will be a new wave of worthy acts that will come through this city and maybe some new local projects will emerge…

Well for sure my environment affects my music in some way, yet when composing I always envision Natural Landscapes of some sort. I`m quite nature inspired and my frequent trips through Quebec`s forest is what affects my music the most.
I do plan to finally move to the country side within a year or so…

Could you think of a time and/or a place which would suit the music of Instincts best as a decor?

Atop a mountain peak on a stormy day…

Are there important non-musical matters that influence your music, like art, literature, travelling, science?

The state of human kind is a constant matter of reflection for me, the inherent willingness to self destruction will never cease to amaze/disgust me.

I really enjoy travelling, I`ve visited 19 countries so far and more should be added to the list eventually. Also philosophy, Jung, Nietzsche, Evola etc. and runology. Film and photography also inspire me alot.

Do you have a job besides your musical activities? And do you see that as a burden or as an enrichment?

I`m currently employed as a bartender in a minimal / techno / electro nightclub, I`m also manager at an Oxygen bar / urban spa where people can come to inhale oxygen have massages drink fresh juices etc… and I also work as a bartender in a theater. When I have the time I also work as a sound engineer and light technician at a local hall. Although the money is good, I wish I could concentrate only on my musical and label activities, who knows, maybe some day!

A classic question: if you could bring along 5 records to a desert, which would that be?

I`ll go with my classics:
Aghast / Hexerei Im Zwielicht Der Finsternis
In Slaughter Natives / s/t
Thergothon / Streams From The Heavens
Arcana / Dark Age Of Reason
Raison D`Etre / Within The Depths Of Silence And Phormations

Any final thoughts?

Well my most sincere gratitude goes out to you Hans, for taking the time to send me this interview, your support is greatly appreciated. Long live Funprox!
To those interested, you can visit the Cyclic Law website at for more information on the above mentioned releases and audio samples.