A Human Touch: In Conversation With Thodén
Upon first encounter with ‘This Codified Drift’, the debut LP from Copenhagen based producer Thodén, Its hard to not be immediately enveloped in the delicate, glacial and organic world of atmospherics that elegantly intertwine with shimmering, artificial textures which pirouette and dance around his carefully constructed panoramic aural tundra.
The follow up to his last solo EP on Row records sees Thodén return to rising Stuttgart label Electroménager. His 2019 release with the label titled ‘800 mg’ was a confident display of mature, club orientated, textural workouts marked by an ever present sense of style, aesthetic and identity. This was then to be followed up by the superbly diverse and equally engaging release on Row in early 2020.
Throughout his discography, Thodén displays a masterful command of sound design, texture, melody and composition, which culminates to produce some of the most compelling electronic music that is being produced today. His debut album is no exception.
The LP is an extrasensory exploration into the misty and opaque realms beyond the club, drifting and meandering through sub-zero sonic landscapes, intermittently punctuated by surgically sharp textural percussion which gradually condenses and crystallises into 3 breathtaking sonic and emotional crescendos in ‘Hyperreal’, ‘Gush’ and the closer ‘Signal on Baikal’.
It’s impossible not to be compelled by this LP, with emotional and compositional movements that take place across the scope of multiple tracks and in the contexts of changing tempos, all unified with an overwhelmingly clear and defined sense of identity and voice.
Ahead of the release of the long form visualiser for ‘This Codified Drift’, I sat down with Kris to find out more about how this project came into being, and how he approached the writing of the record.
Pete: So first of all many thanks for sitting down with me today, I was wondering whether you could tell us a little bit about how this project came together initially?
Kris: Yanni (aka label head Jacques Torrance) approached me in September I believe, and he suggested the idea of creating an ambient EP specifically for the label, because it seemed to us that with the state of the scene now and the state of everyones lives, an ambient release would be a more appropriate thing to put out since the kind of environments that people are tending to listen to electronic music in have obviously changed dramatically.
I was happy to give it a go, even though it was something that I’d never really done before. I think everyone that makes electronic music delves into ambience to some degree. You can’t really get around it, but you can definitely be deliberate in the ways you use it in the context of your tunes.
P: In many ways, atmosphere is integral to all electronic music including the stuff that may not necessarily be ambient focused either…
K: Yeah, exactly. So for me to be to focus on that specific element deliberately was something that I hadn’t done before.
I think I had 2 tracks, prior to Yanni approaching me, that were in some degree of completion which ended up becoming the last 2 tracks on the record. I had been in a rut of making stuff prior to that, which is something I find happens periodically in my music making.
So when Yanni approached me about working on this, it gave me the kick that I needed to start making stuff again. I eventually got back into the flow of it and the project ended up being 8 tracks!
P: It’s a very sizeable record!
K: Haha, yeah it was never meant to be! But we had a solid base to work from with these 2 initial tunes and Yanni suggested that we should try and include some stuff that wasn’t necessarily ambient, whilst maintaining the overall intention of trying to keep the sentimental and human sound of the atmospherics at the core of the project.
I find for me, ambient music often comes in many forms, some of it can be very mechanistic, some of it can be very natural and some of it can be very human. I think using stuff like vocals or choral elements can add the human touch that runs throughout the whole project.
P: This is something I’ve found very endearing with all of your music really, that even amongst very forward thinking electronic sound palettes and dense percussive work, there always seems to be the underlying human connection in the vocals, foley, and the atmospherics which engages the listener outside of that classic unilateral club dynamic.
K: Yeah, I mean that's really nice to hear actually because I don’t generally spend a lot of time thinking about it. I’m not very deliberate with my process and what I end up putting down is just what comes naturally really.
P: So when you were tackling this project that isn’t strictly club focussed, did anything in your writing process change because of it?
K: In the past, I’ve generally tended to think in very much the same way when arranging and structuring my music e.g intro, then maybe some percussion, small break down followed by a big moment etc.
But what happens is that I end up getting carried away and realising the tune is like 8 minutes long! So approaching this project, I had to realise that there is no given structure to how a song should be structured and that I could be more freeform with how I approached composition.
P: So considering this newfound freedom in how you structure and arrange your music, did you start to look at how the energy of the music could play out over multiple tracks?
Because when I listen to the record, what strikes me is how well chosen the tracklist is and how well each track flows into one another to create longer movements of music throughout the course of the LP, almost in the same way as you would find in a mix. Was this a conscious choice when you were writing?
K: Yeah definitely, so the initial plan for the release was to write the record it in such a way that we could do a continuous mix to accompany it and have that released on Bandcamp as like an addition to the LP. That idea got floated at the beginning and then wasn’t really mentioned after that, so it never really ended up happening.
But as a side effect of that, it made me aware of context of the tracks within the scope of the LP. So I ended up writing the project with the conscious decision that each track would have to mix well into the next one. So all of the tracks decay in the same kind of way and I used the the same pieces of foley and ambience that I had used in the outgoing tune in order to keep the consistency and flow between the tracks.
P: I also believe you guys are putting together some multimedia work and an installation to accompany the record was wondering whether you could tell me a little bit about that?
K: Yeah of course, so the installation is by an art collective base in Paris called Niveau Zéro Atelier whose work is based around their use of industrial materials. The project involved the construction of a sculpture made primarily from re-used home appliances (Electroménager), which were melted, laser cut and put together to create a sculpture that is appearing in the video that is going to accompany the record as well as being displayed as part of a physical installation as and when it is safe and okay to do so.
We also worked with Glasgow based fashion designer Flora Studio to make a one off Electroménager boiler suit which will be displayed alongside the sculpture which also will be making a cameo in the video.
It was great to work with someone like Yanni on a project like this because he really puts his heart into it. He is always up for going that extra mile to make these releases special and multifaceted, and to collaborate with artists from across mediums to create something that is greater than the sum of its component parts.
‘This Codified Drift’ is out now via Electroménager and the accompanying video for the release can be found via the link below: