Sweden’s Carbon Based Lifeforms will release the album Derelicts on 6 October, but the stalwart ambient duo has offered up a taste of its fifth full-length via the video release of “Accede”. The track and the album as a whole find Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad considering their musical legacy while also moving forward into new ambient territories.
The pair dove straight into analogue synths this time, sampling dishwashers, escalators, teething toys and wrapping it all in a familiar but not overly familiar cloak of mysterious, thought-provoking and deeply emotive experience. While listeners will be reminded of Brian Eno (circa 1983’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks), the early work of Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, this remains Carbon Based Lifeforms through and through.
“Accede” provides a fine introduction to what arrives over the course of the full album, quickly transporting the listener from their place on earth into the deepest reaches of space in a few simple measures. Though ambient music is sometimes synonymous with the staid and sterile, Carbon Based Lifeforms’ brand is the sound of momentum, continuous revelation, that keeps the listener engaged and taking notes on the various locales to which the music carries them.
Hedberg and Segerstad recently sat down to answer a few email questions about the upcoming release and their sustained passion for the music they first played together more than 20 years ago.
You released the Refuge soundtrack in 2013. How long was it before you began writing the material that appears on this new record?
We spent a weekend at a friend’s summer house in February 2015. We brought a bunch of gear and wrote like eight song ideas. Only one of those, “780 Days”, wound up on the album. But it was a good way to start out, so we’ll definitely do it again if there’s another album.
You’ve been known to re-write songs several times and throw out ideas completely. How do you determine when something isn’t quite working or probably isn’t going to measure up to your standards?
It’s a lot of back and forth, trying out ideas and when we both agree there’s something good going on we keep taking the track in that direction. It’s a slow process and can easily take half a year. Sometimes we simply hit a dead end and then it’s a question of starting over or simply scrapping the track completely (saving it for a later date). We still have stuff laying around that didn’t make the cut for World of Sleepers (2006).
I read that you worked less with software-based instruments this time out. How did that alter the writing and recording process? Would you do it again based on the experience you had?
One of the big reasons we started making electronic music was a deep infatuation with synthesizers. Our collection of instruments has been growing constantly since we started producing. For this album, the collection was big enough to keep things almost entirely on the hardware side.
The big advantage of using software instruments is the instant and complete recall of sounds, which means that you can easily tweak and edit sounds all the way to the finish line. With hardware, it’s a bit more complicated since every tweak you make means, after recording a track, requires you to record it again. And that’s if we remembered to save the sound to begin with! The sound design with hardware is much more rewarding. Nothing beats nobs and sliders.
Was “Accede”, which opens the album, a track written early on?
It was started quite earlier as an experiment on a, then, recently acquired Roland JD-800, it does the main theme and textures. But as with almost all of the tracks, we kept tweaking it up until the end of production.
When did you know that it would be the lead track on the album?
The track list wasn’t set until everything was done and we decided to put “Accede” first because it starts out pretty strong with the clear arpeggio. We tend to have really long intros, and we wanted to have the same kind album opener as on Interloper.
I love the cinematic quality to it, it’s dramatic without going too far in that direction.
Thank you! The basic idea for “Accede” was to make a track using more sweeping/longer melodies than we usually do. We had just acquired a Roland JD-800 and were tweaking away on some of the presets and it suddenly just came together. The bulk of the track, the pads/leads and arpeggio was done in a couple of hours and were kept as is on the album, which was lucky since “someone” managed to forget to backup the machine before some servicing which resulted in us losing all of the sounds.
You also made a video for it. I love that it’s strange but fits with the music perfectly.
We had no budget and asked a friend for a favor. We basically asked for loads of space and nature footage, and he made it all beautiful.
I’m curious if you approach a soundtrack or commissioned project differently than a traditional Carbon Based Lifeforms recording or is it a matter, in the end, of music being music?
The process is quite different. We usually find it easier to write commissioned music. At least when we nailed the main theme, it’s more of a boxed in process with clear boundaries which takes away a lot of guess work. When writing an album, it’s more a case of a blank page where almost everything is allowed, and that’s a much more involved and meandering process, trying things and see how they fit together.
Listening to Derelicts all the way through for the first time was a real experience for me. I stopped everything else and just listened. Are you able to listen to your records when you’re done with them or does the process of hearing the music over and over again in the writing and then recording process make it impossible for you?
No, right when an album is finished it’s almost painful to listen to it for us. All the back and forth with mixing and mastering and all the proof listening really makes you sick of the tracks. But it usually passes in a couple of months after it’s done and you start to appreciate it again.