isolatedmix 23 - Carbon Based Lifeforms

Anybody see the link yet? That’s right, it’s both an honour and a privilege to introduce the 23rd isolatedmix, by none other than the legendaryCarbon Based Lifeforms.

Us CBL fans have been pretty lucky recently; two albums in successive years, with Interloper in 2010 and Twentythree in 2011. But, it hasn’t always been so. With albums sometimes three years apart, this extended anticipation has left many-a CBL fan suffering for years on end. For many, that’s what makes their productions so special and for me, this mix even more so.

Not only are Daniel and Johannes cult heroes heralded by many ambient fans from across the world, but stumbling across any of their releases, or indeed insight into their workings is as rare as the sunshine on a Swedish winters day. Everything that floats out of their studio is quality and has been since their very first release on the ground-breaking Ultimae Records back in 2003.

How do you keep such a fan base in tune over such an extended period? (Damn it, I didn’t even ask that question below). Well, from my point of view… you set the standard for stunning ambient music, you keep raising it with each release and you make sure that every album you produce has the ability to envelope you in warm synthesizers and transport you to that welcoming but strangely isolated place. Daniel and Johannes have it nailed.

isolatedmix 23 is a truly stunning and eclectic journey into the minds of two maestros, with retro sounds and pioneering productions alongside tracks from some of today’s best producers – it’s a who’s who of ambient and electronica and if any of you need an intro into this world, this is it. And if you need an intro into CBL’s world, then scroll down to read a few questions I put their way…



01. Raymond Scott – In The Hall Of The Mountain Queen
02. Space Lab – Blue Planet
03. Brian Eno – An Ending (Ascent)
04. Aphex Twin – Rhubarb
05. M83 – I Guess I’m Floating
06. Vangelis – Ireland
07. Autechre – VLetrmx
08. Murcof – Isaias II
09. Barn Owl – Lotus Cloud
10. Fennesz – River Of Sand
11. Boards Of Canada – Open The Light
12. Hammock – Cruel Sparks
13. Trentemøller – Miss You
14. Terry Devine-King – Life Cycle
15. Solar Quest – Singtree
16. 23rd World – Enchanted Isles
17. Foundland – Everybodys Neighbour
18. Sally Shapiro – Sleep In My Arms
19. Solar Quest – Liquid Sky
20. Lusine – Operation Costs – Disassembled Mix
21. Bo Hansson – The Old Forest (Tom Bombadil)
22. Mathew Dear – Slowdance
23. Tycho – Coastal Brake
24. TV On The Radio – Staring At The Sun


Hello Daniel, Johannes! I always like to picture the scene for someone answering an interview – can you tell us where you are and what i’ve interrupted you from doing?!
Drinking beer and making the mix in Johannes studio 

For anyone not familiar with Carbon Based Lifeforms, can you give us a quick intro to your sound and your main influences?
Textures, pads, 303’s, arpeggios and melodies. Most of our influences can be heard in the mix.

It’s nearly ten years since you signed with Ultimae – that’s quite a long time on one label. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with them?
They´re really great people and quite easy to work with. They’re more of a family than a label to us.
The reason it’s been working for that long is that they leave us a lot of creative freedom and they are extremely professional… They’ve got their shit together.

Can you describe your working relationship and the roles you both take in producing music? Are there lots of arguments or are you a duo made for each other!?
We tend to start out ideas for songs in our separate studios, and when we find something the other one likes we start hammering it out to a complete song. Not a lot of arguments however we have different roles when it comes to the production. Johannes likes to get lost in a lot of details on sounds and Daniel is usually the one to get things rolling again. Except when it comes to drums and percussions, then the roles are pretty much reversed.

I’ve read before that you love using the Roland TB-303 synth in your music and that you try sneaking it in every track at some point – is this true with twentythree? If not, what was most used instrument in this album?
Well the 303 made it’s way into that album as well but not as predominantly as our previous albums. We used a lot of Clavia G2 Modular on 23 though.

Can you tell us how twentythree differs from your previous albums? What was the idea behind the album?
We had been talking about making a beat-less album since we released World Of Sleepers, and we actually finished a version of it in 2009. But after a lot of self doubt and critical listening, and a good long talk with Ultimae we decided that many of the tracks would sound a lot better with beats than without so we added the beats that were needed and released Interloper instead, hence the name.

I find it really easy to imagine places, landscapes and feelings with your music. Most ambient music possesses this ability, but yours seems to be that much stronger. Is this intentional and do you try to paint vivid pictures with your music?
We have quite a visual way of thinking of music, so maybe thats why. Another reason might be that we usually don’t finish a track in just one sitting, it’s more of an ongoing process which can last for a couple of years. When we´re producing an album we tend to write work on the songs a bunch at a time.

My favourite track from twentythree is ‘Somewhere in Russia’. Where is this somewhere, and what was the inspiration behind the track?
That’s quite a story really… We hade been booked to do a gig in Moscow, Johannes did not want to go but Daniel decided to go alone. However the festival was cancelled and the organizers decided that it would be a terrific idea to not tell Daniel about it so he ended up alone and just a little bit worried at the Moscow Airport. There were no hotel rooms at the airport and no flights back to Gothenburg until two days later. But after countless phone calls to Ultimae and back to Sweden he finally got a hold of Andrei, one of Ultimae’s distributors in Moscow who was on his way to a party a couple of hours outside of Moscow so he picked Daniel up and brought him along. It was during this trip the idea was born. The poem that can be heard at the beginning of that track was written by one the guys from the party.

Where is your ‘Strangely Isolated Place’?
Usually when driving, walking or working.

Sweden seems to be a hub for atmospheric electronic music. How much does Sweden and the places you visit influence your music?
Good question… We tend to think that everything kind of influences the music we make. But maybe it’s the cold and dark climate, or maybe it’s just a cultural thing, it’s usually pretty easy to spot if music is made in the states, the UK, in Scandinavia etc.

You recently played in London at the (very intimate) Inspiral Lounge – do you enjoy gigs like this? What would be your ideal setting for playing a live gig and who would be playing with you?
Yeah Inspiral is a really great place to play, very intimate as you said however it’s really uncomfortable for old geezers like us  The stage is basically a small staircase..  But the vibe there is excellent.
As far as ideal setting we came pretty close when we played at Cosmonova in Stockholm, it is the only state of the art imax theatre in sweden with a huge dome and stuff it was really cool, however there is no connection with the audience what so ever… so maybe the ultimate place would be a combination of the two..

Did you get up to anything else whilst in London? Any sightseeing? Did you get to see Kensington Gardens?!
A bit of sightseeing, lot’s of beer and food  Yes we went to Kensington Gardens again. We recorded the strange piano thingie on the track Kensington Gardens last time went there. This time we tried to figure out what was making the sound but it turned out you had to have a kid with you to get into that area so i guess we’ll never know.

Can we expect another brilliant 15 years or so of CBL? What have you got planned for the future?
Keep your fingers crossed! Our next project will probably not be another CBL-album. We’ve met a really talented singer, so the next thing we do will probably be something with her. We have not figured out the direction of that project exactly yet but we think it will be something that will please the CBL-fans.

And last but not least, can you talk about your approach and inspirations behind the mix you’ve put together?
At first we just wanted to include tracks that have inspired or influenced us when we started out, but realised we would miss out on a lot of really sweet newer tracks, so it’s a combo of old “important” things and stuff we really love.

Big thank you to Daniel and Johannes for the time and effort with the words and the mix. You can grab Carbon Based Lifeforms latest release ‘Twentythree’ from Ultimae here.