The universe is making music all the time

Step Right Up: Klara Lewis

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Interview with Klara Lewis.

“I didn’t know what ‘Ett’ – the debut album – would sound like. It just feels like there is an ongoing mood that you can sense throughout and I mean that was really exciting for me to notice as well that my own sound was taking shape at the same time that I was working.”

—Klara Lewis

Words: Mark Carry


Last Spring marked the release of one of 2014’s most formidable (and unique) electronic creations, in the shape of debut full-length, ‘Ett’  from Swedish electronic artist Klara Lewis. The debut release on Editions Mego is Lewis’ highly anticipated follow-up to the stunning three track E.P. (released in 2012) that is also present on ‘Ett’ in re-worked forms. The masterfully assembled sonic textures (the album’s ten tracks feels more like a sound collage consisting of a seamless array of fleeting moments, beautifully suspended in time and space) unfold new possibilities and meaning upon each re-visit. ‘Ett’s mixture of found sounds, field recordings and electronic layers is a haven for the senses that forges an entire universe of enchanting and bewildering sounds.

One of the most striking aspects of the debut record is the resultant mood captured through sound that permeates throughout ‘Ett’s sprawling canvas of sound. The ambient opus ‘Shine’ – part B’s tour de force – drifts magnificently by a myriad of subtle electronic beats, field recordings and a central synth-led melody. A deeply immersive and reflective feel unfolds as the soothing synths conjures up the timeless sound of Harold Budd (particularly the pedal steel-based L.P. ‘The Serpent (In Quicksilver)’ ) or Daniel Lopitan’s Oneohtrix Point Never. Layers upon layers of stunningly beautiful textures are masterfully interwoven here that reflects the organic quality and deeply affecting nature of the gifted artist’s electronic works.

The album was recorded, sampled, edited, manipulated, mixed, produced and arranged by Lewis. As described previously by Editions Mego, ‘Ett’  is “an electronically charged reconstruction of organic sound matter.” A wholly unique landscape is thus created that inhabits a similarly magical realm as the New York-native Ezekiel Honig and his warmly emotive music. Undoubtedly, ‘Ett’ can be seen as a lovely parallel alongside Honig or indeed the Editions Mego roster of talented sound sculptures.

A plethora of samples, found sounds and field recordings are dotted across the ten towering creations; most notably, a prayer call is beautifully placed in the forefront of ‘Muezzin’s mix of techno beats and hypnotic choral voices. The stunning track could be the sound of Modern Love’s Andy Stott remixing U.S. songwriter Julia Holter such is its illuminating brilliance. ‘Ett’ represents the arrival of an immense new talent in electronic music.


Ett’ is available now on Editions Mego.



Interview with Klara Lewis.

Congratulations on your amazing debut album, I’ve been listening to it a lot these past few weeks. One aspect I love about the album is how you combine so many different elements; there’s lovely found sounds and field recordings interwoven in the mix. I imagine it took a long time for each piece of music to fully form?

Klara Lewis: Well it does vary quite a lot. There are tons of layers on every song, absolutely, but I mean some of the songs were relatively quick. It’s difficult to know when it’s like, what could you compare it to. But I think most of the time I just start by collecting sounds and then I just open up a new project and add the sounds I would like to look at and then manipulate them and start building. So it can vary quite a lot with how much time it takes.


My favourite song at the moment is ‘Shine’. I love the organic feel that runs throughout and how it’s more ambient. In terms of the album itself, Klara, was it recorded at home and what material did you have at your disposal?

KL: I basically tried to have my portable recording device with me at all times and I mean there’s a real mix of stuff. Some tracks are based on what the dishwasher sounds like or when I’ve been traveling, I’ve brought it along some train sounds and waves and things, or prayer calls in Istanbul, birdsong: It’s very mixed. But I use small pieces from the field recordings so I mean most of the time you can’t tell, you know, what the original field recording was. So they do change quite a bit after I’ve been at them.


Is it the track ‘49th Hour’ that might have the prayer call, I love how there is a vocal/choral element to it?

KL: No, I think it’s ‘Muezzin’ that has the prayer call and then ‘49th Hour’ has a lot of train sounds. But sometimes I might have a field recording that I really, really like that has so much potential but it may not be that field recording that makes it onto the album. It could be one that seems it has to be less special and can seem boring at first. Then it’s all about how the sounds are processed and how it completely changes into new sounds.


In a way Klara, is it the field recording itself that almost forms the song or gives you the spark to create one?

KL: I think it’s more that it gives the spark to create one, not so much that the field recording will create the track. It’s more like they inspire me to start working and I never know where a track will end up. So I just basically start working on the sounds and then you know, see where it goes. I just try and listen to the sounds and see what kind of moods I think this sound could create. And it’s all about how I combine different small pieces. It’s mostly a mood and atmosphere kind of thing.


That’s certainly true, you certainly create a certain mood on the album. Also, the ten tracks feel like one large cohesive whole where it works so well.

KL: That’s great that you think so because I mean it’s difficult to know how it will end up when it’s your first release. I started off by making an E.P when I was still at school and those three tracks ended up on the album, reworked. I mean I didn’t have a clue what music I would be making but I did want to work with found sounds because I started doing that at a very early age. When I got my first digital camera and I started filming things – I started filming things because of how they sounded. So then I took these sounds from the digital films that I shot and started making tracks. And my first track, I made it when I was thirteen and then I made the E.P when I was seventeen. I didn’t know what ‘Ett’ – the debut album – would sound like. It just feels like there is an ongoing mood that you can sense throughout and I mean that was really exciting for me to notice as well that my own sound was taking shape at the same time that I was working. All of the tracks that I have ever made are out there – I mean I don’t have any tracks that are on the shelf – so the tracks that are on ‘Ett’ are the tracks that I have made.


As you say Klara too, in the sense that there are so many layers and you can obviously forget what started it and things like that, I can imagine is it a challenge too of adding or removing layers to capture that spark you wanted from the start?

KL: Yeah absolutely, it’s always about adding and subtracting. I mean it’s easy just to build things up and they’re too complicated and you now try to work backwards for to capture the mood that you wanted to capture from the very beginning.


I’m interested with the digital camera area, were you immersed in music beforehand when you were a child and growing up?

KL: Yes, I started playing bass when I was twelve because I really liked James Brown so I wanted to play funk on the bass, and I liked Joy Division and that kind of stuff. And then when I was thirteen or fourteen, I was really into film but I wanted to make my own film as a school project. But the stuff I enjoyed filming, it was difficult to create a narrative. So I thought I should make music that you know, binds all of this material together so I had to make my own soundtrack. But then I thought, well why don’t I use the sounds from the film clips to make it more united. So that’s where it started.

My first biggest interest was in film when I was very young but it’s now developed into the music thing and now I’m studying Audio Visual Production so I’m studying both film and music. I mean those possibilities are so exciting; what happens when you combine the two, I mean you can do anything it feels like.


Well the album itself sounds like it could be a soundtrack to a certain film, as well.

KL: Well, I listen to a lot of film music, I’ve done since I was very young. So I think that has affected how I make things. A lot of people do think that the tracks are very cinematic and that they have an inner-movie going on when they listen to the music. I think that’s really interesting and it’s an aspect that I really like and enjoy in a lot of music. I don’t have that thing where images appear when you listen to music. That doesn’t happen to me but I think maybe because that doesn’t happen to me when I listen to music means that I can focus more on the mood thing. It doesn’t have to be connected to a narrative, you know in a more conventional way, and more about moods and that kind of thing.


I would be curious to know what would be the films, directors and composers that you’d have most fascination with?

KL: Well, I think David Lynch has been a very important influence. Since I was thirteen, that’s when I saw “Twin Peaks” for the first time. It was interesting because I read an interview with The Knife – you know the Swedish duo because I really got into their stuff – and they mentioned David Lynch and Aphex Twin in this interview and that really kicked things off. There was a description of the scene in ‘Blue Velvet’ where they find the ear in the field, and I was like: “Oh yeah, yeah mom and dad have talked about that, I recognize that” – I started checking it out and I came home one day and asked my Dad: “Oh do you know about this Aphex Twin?” and he was like, “Oh sure, Richard”, and pointed to the record shelf. And so at home I could just pick stuff up and get going, basically.


It’s amazing with ‘Twin Peaks’ how the music creates such an atmosphere with the characters.

KL: Oh absolutely. I love the way they use the soundtrack and the music in almost all of Lynch’s films and ‘Twin Peaks’ too, of course. But I also think it’s how he uses mood and how he can let things be unsolved and there doesn’t always have to be an obvious answer to things. I mean people can have their own versions of what the films are about; I think that’s something I really appreciate and not a lot of film-makers dare to do that. I really appreciate that and how they try to work in that way with the music as well. I mean I don’t feel the need to overstate things and I really like it that different people can interpret things in different ways and that’s something that should be appreciated.


You are based in Sweden. I wonder is it a rural part?

KL: It is more urban, I mean it’s only forty-five minutes on the train from Stockholm. So it’s pretty urban.


Did the landscape around Sweden, well needless to say, did it shape the music in some way?

KL: Well I think it could have. I think maybe the biggest influence would be at home because my Dad being a musician, artist and my mother being really interested in film and music. So I’ve always had strange sounds around me since I was born, so being born into it, basically. And understanding that anything can be music. When you learn that from a very young age that does change how you listen to things and you start listening to your surroundings and tones that you like in everyday sounds and stuff.

There are quite a lot of everyday sounds that I make use of but I also think it’s easier to be more active in the recording part when you are on a trip somewhere because you are more aware of your surroundings when you’re travelling and stuff. I think you appreciate new inputs more so I think I’d like to be better at recording actively at home but it seems to be easier for me to actually do that when I am travelling.


And the act of travelling too Klara, I wonder would this be mainly around Europe?

KL: Yeah, Europe mostly. I think on the album there are sounds from different parts of Sweden, and Istanbul, and Germany. I mean it’s a mix. And I guess ‘Muezzin’ is perhaps the most obvious one, it’s almost like the theme track because of the prayer-call and that kind of thing, whilst others are less obvious, perhaps what place they’re set in.


I love that too how it’s so abstract and all the detail is very much open to your own interpretation. And away from the found sounds, I love the electronic manipulation or addition to the songs too. There’s a lovely variation too because some are more ambient pulses and others more techno. Was this a case again of layering different tracks?

KL: Yeah, I think that’s always the way I work and it doesn’t really matter if I am working with found sounds or sampling or synthetic sounds, it’s always the same process. I think I often treat the synthetic sounds and the sampling exactly the same way as I treat the field recording; I listen to them in the same way. And I think a lot of the sounds that sound more electronic or more synthetic on the album are in fact found sounds just that have been changed to that kind of realm. I mean they have a clearer function perhaps to build the beat and kind of synthy thing. A lot of that is also built on field recording that I put into a sampler and play it off a keyboard or a launch pad or whatever.


And looking back on the album recording, I wonder what aspect of the music-making process did you find the most challenging?

KL: Well, I think I found a process that I really enjoy because it is so organic and you cannot foresee how things will go. I guess that’s a risk because I never know where something is going to end up so I guess sometimes in the middle of the process of a track, it’s like will this become anything because you don’t know what’s going on, really. But I think most of the time there is one period where this is a big threshold and it might be you know, a couple of different layers that I have looped with and how do I take this to the next step. And I think one of the key parts for me is the transition within tracks when one part turns into another part of the track. That’s something that I really find fascinating how people work about that area because it’s easy to have the main focus on the big beats or the verse or the refrain but it’s getting over between the different parts, I find that really fascinating.


That’s exactly what happens on the album too, you know as you say in the middle of a song it evolves very much so or crosses over, maybe many times.

Is there a live tour coming up for you?

KL: There are a couple of concerts coming up. I’m also collaborating with Simon Fischer Turner right now and we’re working towards some live shows at the end of this year and the beginning of next year.


Are there particular albums you’ve been listening to a lot in the last while?

KL: I really like Inga Copeland’s latest, her first solo album, who was in Hype Williams. I like that kind of lo-fi, very simple but strong material, I think. I also got the Oram/Walls and I thought it was a really interesting concept to apply her sounds into a modern context ad it’s a great way to get more people informed about how fantastic her work was and I think a lot of her material sounds very modern when you listen to it now. But it’s such a shame how she hasn’t really been acknowledged enough.

Right now I am listening to a lot of the Editions Mego releases and you know, the other people on the label. I hadn’t listened that much to the other acts or the other releases but now I’ve been getting these fantastic packages with tons of LP’s so I’m discovering tons of new fascinating music on the Editions Mego label so that’s taking up a lot of my time.




‘Ett’ is available now on Editions Mego.


Written by markcarry

August 25, 2014 at 11:03 am

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