For those of you that follow ASIP regularly, you’re probably aware of my obsession around places, and its relation to music. Places can inspire and music can be a result of this inspiration as well as compliment our experiences in a personal and memorable way.
With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure in introducing the 21st isolatedmix to you all. The genius behind ‘Manual’ and recent collaborator with Ulrich Schnauss, Jonas Munk has chosen a unique approach to his isolatedmix. I needn’t say much more, as Jonas has given us an in-depth commentary on the approach and the tracks that have been chosen below.
The thought and effort that has gone into this mix is second to none, so a big thank you to Jonas for an insightful, and inspiring isolatedmix.
Words from Jonas Munk:
“I’ve had this idea of compiling some of the artists that has come out of my hometown Odense, Denmark for a while. Recently a short Danish radio feature was made about the music scene in Odense which gave a glimpse of some of the current projects, but it certainly didn’t paint a picture of the city as a place with a specific sound. But what has become more and more obvious to me throughout the years is that Odense most certainly has a sound – or at least a certain character. Sure, bands break up or change their style and people move away, but somehow there’s a set of similarities running through a lot of the music that has come out of Odense anyway – which should be obvious when listening to this mix of dreamy rock and electronic music from the last ten years.
When I was asked to do a mix for astrangelyisolatedplace, I felt that it was a good opportunity to finally compile some of the fine bands and artists from Odense, and maybe also the right time since it’s roughly ten years ago me and my friends starting releasing albums. But even with such a stylistically narrow focus (bands and artists that are somehow related to dream-pop, ambient or shoegaze) it was actually impossible to squeeze the rather large amount of projects into a comprehensive overview within an hour-long mix. So unfortunately not all the relevant projects are represented here.
Which is kind of ironic. In Denmark, Odense (the third largest city in the country) has a reputation of being a cultural wasteland, a place with miles and miles of residential neighbourhoods but hardly any culture of real interest. Which is true, sort of. On the surface there has only been the occasional famous DJ or rock band coiming out of Odense. Besides that there have been loads of cover bands. And metal bands. Lots of metal bands. But underneath all this there has been produced a wealth of highly ambitious, original and accomplished music in Odense. It’s just that it has never been obvious to anyone who wasn’t either part of these circuits or deeply interested in alternative music. This stuff hasn’t really been super visible at local venues or been present in the Danish press – it has mainly been going on in bedrooms, rehearsal spaces and project studios. Apart from a few interested journalists and concert promoters all this great music has been all but completely neglected by the cultural institutions – that be mags, radio, festivals, art councils and daily press. At least in Denmark, that is. Because a lot of these artists have done very well outside Denmark, releasing albums on respected labels in the US, Germany, UK, France and Japan, and have gotten amazing press and toured in these countries. Except for one, none of these artists have ever released anything in Denmark.
So how come a slow, medium-sized city such as Odense, in a country with hardly any interest in this kind of music, has produced all these quality dreamy records? Good question. Maybe one reason is the lack of interesting things going on. Except for the occasional festival or the occasional cool show at one of the local venues. There have been a long tradition for international bands to skip Odense when playing in Denmark: the cool bands play Copenhagen, then travel straight to Aarhus before going down to Germany. You’re propably more likely to have a good evening drinking cheap beer listening to Seefeel and My Bloody Valentine all night with your friends than going to one of the local techno parties or rock venues. Maybe there’s a tendency for people to become slightly introverted and therefore absorb themselves in music and creation. And if you’re a young, slightly introvert artist what better sounds to bury yourself in than the dreamy sounds of the 1980s and early 1990s? Well, according to this idea every motionless, medium-sized city in Europe should be producing loads of shoegaze bands, which obviously isn’t the case. Maybe it’s because Denmark is a welfare country and young people tend to have plenty of time on their hands – which an amount of them choose to spend playing guitar while starring at the clouds? I’m not sure.
Maybe the more likely explanation is that a bunch of young, romantically inclined and somewhat intellectual people have been hanging around each other, generating ideas and these ideas have been bouncing around their friend circuits for some time and eventually beyond those circuits, which in the end have resulted in a lot of music that shares certain traits. Coincidentally these people are into Durutti Column, Slowdive and the likes – great music that isn’t really trendy, that is.
Or maybe there’s just something in the water in Odense, that naturally makes young people attracted to reverb and melancholia?”
Tracklist – see below for full track notes.
01. Rumskib: Love at first sight
02. Dorias Baracca: Silence
03. Limp: New Autumn
04. Syntaks: Shiftandshade Ahead
05. Scared Crow: I hate you too
06. Balloon Magic: Waking Up
07. Keith Canisius: Omorose
08. Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk: In Odense
09. Manual: Saudade
10. Dead Sunday: Brotherhood
11. The Dove is Dead: Moth
12. Dorias Baracca: Shaky Dreams
13. Aerosol: Airborne
1. Rumskib: Love at first sight
-Rumskib was a duo consisting of Keith Canisius and Tine Louise. They only made one album before splitting up – the self-titled 2007 release on Darla Records in the US. The sound of Rumskib is a euphoric blend of 1980s pop, electronica and shoegaze that will appeal to anyone who has ever been in love with Curve, Lush or Cocteau Twins. However this is one of the abstract pieces from that album which deconstructs the dream pop sound into something that’s closer to Fennesz or Tim Hecker in sound.
2. Dorias Baracca: Silence
-Unfortunately Dorias Baracca also ceased to exist earlier this year when lead singer, and main creative force, Buster Svendsen passed away in June, at 19. In the band’s rather short existence they managed to create a unique style of shoegaze that encompass the swathing, romantic noise of early Slowdive and Ride as well as aspects of louder guitar-driven rock from the 1990s. Silence is from the Handsome Meltingpoint EP that came out on London label Club AC30 in January 2010. That EP stands as a great testament to Dorias Baracca’s potential as a band, and their ability to channel their creativity into such a seductive blend of dreamy melancholy and unbounded youthful energy. One can only wonder how a band can reach such an artistic maturity while still in their teens.
3. Limp: New Autumn
-Limp was a unit consisting of myself, Jakob Skøtt, Jess Kahr and Rasmus Rasmussen and formed the basis of the styles and sounds we would later explore through our various soloprojects: Manual, Syntaks and Aerosol. Our aim was to create a kind of post-rock that also borrowed sounds and ideas from 1980s rock (über-romantic, U2-sized peaks) and dream-pop (a healthy dose of chorus and reverb) as well as the detailed programming of electronica that seemed so interesting back then (this was around 2000-2002). We didn’t entirely succeed but we did come up with a few fine moments where chorused guitars, electronics and dreamy analog synths came together with Jakobs powerful drumming in a way that was quite beautiful and unique. Listening to it now the closest reference for the Limp sound is definitely something like 1980s 4AD instrumental outfit Dif Juz (whom we weren’t familiar with back then). We only released a mini-album, Orion, on Morr Music in 2002 that did very well. New Autumn, however, is an earlier track from a demo that eventually ended up on the soundtrack for the film Nordkraft.
4. Syntaks: Shiftandshade Ahead
-Originally Syntaks was a solo outlet for Jakob Skøtt who was previously playing drums in Limp. After a collaborative album with Manual, 2004’s Golden Sun on Darla Records, he released a brilliant dreamy, but also beat-heavy, album called Awakes on Scottish label Benbecula. For his next full-length, 2009’s Ylajali on Ghostly International, he added his girlfriend Anna Cecilia to his musical creations and since then Syntaks has been a duo. At the same time the sound of Syntaks became more airy and moved closer to the lush sounds of Ulrich Schnauss, Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins, relying more on chimey synths and wordless, heavily reverbed vocals than complex edits and electronics. This track is from the brand new album Nachtblende that came out on UK label Parallax Sounds in late September.
5. Scared Crow: I hate you too
-Scared Crow is the moniker used by Kasper Aagaard. He creates haunting, mysterious music that exists somewhere between deconstructed post-punk, lo-fi electronica and minimalism. Durutti Column, Joy Division and John Maus are all meaningful references for the sound of Scared Crow, but Kasper is really onto his own thing. He mainly uses guitars and loop pedals to create all the layers of his music – even the percussive parts. His debut album, Love in a Dream (from which this track is taken) will be released very soon on Danish label A Beard of Snails Records.
6. Balloon Magic: Waking Up
-Balloon Magic is another Odense band that has reached a musical maturity that belies the fact that they are still in high school. They are way too young to be making the intense, finely crafted alternative pop they are creating. Taking inspiration from bands such as House of Love, The Church, Orange Juice, Go-Betweens and other well-selected sources, they manage to cook up pop songs that has all the flow and drive of their idols – as well as adding a very honest sense of teenage angst and melancholy that occasionally verges on darkness. Their debut ep, Mornings, will be released on the fine San Francisco/Portland label Shelflife on November 15.
7. Keith Canisius: Omorose
-This track is from Keith’s first solo album after Rumskib disbanded called Ferris Wheel Makeout, released on Japanese label Quince in 2008. Keith really has his own way of putting compositions together. Unlike so many other producers operating in the field of electronic shoegaze, chill wave or whatever people wanna call it, Keith has a way of creating interesting compositions that take surprising turns and explore the possibilities of songwriting – not merely the possibilities of sound. His guitar playing is super influenced by Robin Guthrie but he has managed to use Guthries ideas in his own way, which this track is a good example of. His music also has a character that’s similar to Mew (a band that’s still awefully popular in Denmark – especially among teenage girls!) but Keith’s pieces has a sense of melody and composition that even Mew could learn a lot from. Since Ferris Wheel Makeout Keith has released two albums, latest This time it’s our high on Darla Records. He also recently started collecting his ambient explorations on a series of digital releases.
8. Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk: In Odense
Ok, this is mostly here because of the title and the Odense field recordings. It’s one of the shorter pieces from our collaborative album that was released earlier this year – the result of working together in Odense, Kiel and London for some years.
9. Manual: Saudade
This is a new Manual track from a forthcoming ep and a good example of what constitutes the ‘Manual sound’. I’ve always been circulating around a specific set of ideas for the Manual albums. Most people seem to think that this comes from lack of ideas, but to me it has always been about exploring in depth a field that I truly consider my own – even though this field might be quite narrow (I also do quite a lot of work very far away from this narrow field, for those who didn’t know). Creating Manual tracks takes long time and careful work, slowly putting chord progressions together that I consider interesting, getting the right tone for each layer of sound I add to the mix. I guess my continuing to work around some of the same musical ideas reflects my insistence that there’s beauty in this work and that there’s still important areas of this style that needs to be explored, even though this style is not awfully popular anymore.
10. Dead Sunday: Brotherhood
This is propably the newest band on this mix as Dead Sunday only started playing together a little more than a year ago. It’s also the youngest band present and there’s certainly something very refreshing about their swirling and noisy brand of shoegaze. Inspired by Chapterhouse, Jesus and Mary Chain, Slowdive and other classic British bands, they create romantic music about the wonder and naïvety of youth. Whereas a lot of the artists on this mix come from the same two or three circuits and work on collaborative projects together from time to time, these guys suddenly came out of nowhere. Hopefully they will release something soon.
11. The Dove is Dead: Moth
Jens Aagaard (the older brother of Kasper Aagaard a.k.a. Scared Crow) always has his hands in a number of different projects, both solo experiments and in different bands. The music he creates under the name The Dove is Dead blends together ideas from different genres such as lo-fi, post-rock, electronica and alternative pop. Sometimes he will do stuff in the tuneful end of the spectre and sound somewhat similar to Ariel Pink or Washed Out – other times he will sound closer to the repetitive and ghostly sounds of early Seefeel or Slowdive’s 5 EP. This track sort of has a bit of both. At the heart of his operations is a manic creativity that seeks new ways to work with things – with this track, for example, he recorded some layers in an old warehouse to capture the natural reverb of the place.
12. Dorias Baracca: Shaky Dreams
Before lead singer and main songwriter Buster Svendsen passed away in June, Dorias Baracca had just by a tiny margin finished their first full-length album. This is one of my favourite tracks from that album. Hopefully it will be released sometime.
13. Aerosol: Airborne
Aerosol is another soloproject that grew out of Limp. The man with the repetitive name Rasmus Rasmussen creates repetitive music with focus on detailed synthesizer work and hazy guitar atmospheres. The music of Aerosol is often slow-burning – usually starting out with a foundation of simple chord structures and gradually adding layers to create pulsating, melodic streams of sound that brings to mind both Scandinavian electronica in the style of Opiate or Dub Tractor and classic British indie and shoegaze sounds. The first Aerosol release was a 12” EP on French label Active Suspension followed by a mini-album on UK label Unlabel in 2006 called All that is Solid Melts into Air (which has recently been reissued) finally followed by a full-length on American label n5MD in 2009, Airborne – where this track is taken from.