New album out on 1 Jan 2022

My new album Sharawadji will be out on Saturday 1 Jan 2022.

I know it’s an unusual release date: new releases are often unveiled on Fridays, and rarely early in the year. But this is an unusual release (at least for me) – and I feel the characteristics of the music fit the idea of “something new”, celebration, breaking habits. 🙂 It’ll be initially available on Bandcamp only, appearing on all the other streaming services later in January (the exact delivery date is yet to be set).

I’ve been listening to the mastered version of the album for the last couple of weeks now – and I cannot believe how amazing it sounds! Even my mastering engineer was enthusing about how much he enjoyed working on this album (and this is a guy who masters records for a lot of the global music stars, including my inspirations like Brian Eno and the late Jon Hassell, the inventor of Possible Musics). He really did the most amazing job, making this colourful, diverse album sound like one unified experience as if all the tracks were actually created for this album originally*.

Paris was the city where I first got an idea for a kind of global, genreless and borderless, possible music – and here I am, 26 years later, making exactly the kind of music I’d imagined while sitting on the Pont des Arts all those years ago and listening to this wonderful Malian musician perform with a badly distorted amplifier. The fruit ripens slowly indeed (as the Indian saying goes).

Have a wonderful and relaxing holidays!

* One of the tracks was started with a dear friend of mine back in London in 1996, and I still remember the moment he played an updated version of it over the phone while I was standing in a telephone booth in a warm Amsterdam night: I’d never heard anything like it before, and the novelty and energy of his drum patterns pulsating down the line made me so high – well, higher than I already was. It was then, in that booth, that I realised the possibilities of (electronic dance) music were way vaster and way more imaginative than what our (techno) culture at the time promoted and favoured… it made me also realise there was so much more potential in this world if we just try, as my friend had just doubted his abilities as music producer before my departure; alone in our flat and with all the time and space around him, he’d discovered his talent and passion…And now I’m really happy that a new version of this track found its way onto this record: a sonic memory of those youthful experiments back in the day, carried through the decades and infused with (even more) youthful experiments of today.

Sharawadji postponed / New studio in Paris

*** UPDATE ***

I regret to inform that the release of my new album Sharawadji is currently postponed due to my mastering engineer having gotten infected with Covid and now needing time to fully recover – wishing him naturally the best recovery and health! We were just about to start mastering when this unfortunate incident occurred.

The new release date is currently uncertain: a Bandcamp release might be possible before the holidays but the album won’t be on other streaming platforms until sometime in January or February next year due to the delivery times. Of course, I could have gone to another mastering engineer instead, but once you trust someone’s expertise, it’s difficult to jump ship suddenly and find someone else who understands your idea and vision in the same way. Besides, I love working with the same trusted people from year to year, as a long-term, evolving commitment: there’s something unquantifiable and irreplaceable about working with the same personnel year after year.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy moving and setting up my new studio in Paris after the 16-month residency at the Cité des arts. The new home/studio is located in the historic and idyllic, lively Latin Quartier, with its rich history and culture radiating all around. Here, the work continues on finishing the Earth Variations and Interspaces albums (finally!) as well as writing my first non-fiction book which considers a future society through sonic arts (and for which I received a grant from the Association of Finnish Non-fiction Writers earlier this year). More info to follow later.

Picture: a view from my studio window.

Our Last Night at the Cité

Viktoriia Vitrenko and me, on our last night at the Cité. Viktoriia is a soprano, conductor and artistic director from Ukraine. We recorded and performed together during this residency which itself was a journey, a discovery and a transformation. More info on her work here.

The albums we worked on, Earth Variations and Interspaces, will both be out early next year (meanwhile, my album Sharawadji is scheduled to come out this month, permitting that my fantastic mastering engineer will recover from his unfortunate Covid infection – wishing him the best recovery and health!). Earth Variations will also include an edited segment of our 20-minute live performance here at the Cité: our ‘Soirée d’ambient finlandais’ concert last week was largely improvised, and it produced some rather novel musical atmospheres and landscapes, all happily captured for future purposes. A segment of the performance will also be broadcast in the forthcoming episode of the LOVI ambient radio show (more info closer to the airing).

Now, toward new adventures and worlds, with our paths hopefully meeting soon again. À bientôt !

Sharawadji: a new release coming soon

// A new curiosity release coming soon //

Next month I’ll be releasing an album of curiosities titled Sharawadji. The album presents a fusion of Somadelia, Juju Space Jazz, Sahelian Generative, Nordic Throb and Post-Tribal Bliss (yes, existing genres have become rather inadequate to describe current musics 😉 ). Recorded and crafted in various locations over the years, the music paints an impression of the rhythms, melodies and sonic textures of its geographies: Lagos, Cotonou, Ouagadougou, Dakar, Fez, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki and Paris.

The release – which has also gone through titles like ‘Migrant’, ‘The Itinerant’, ‘Border Eraser’ and ‘Invisible Geographies’ – consists of outtakes from my forthcoming Interspaces and Earth Variations albums as well as from the previous Flash of the Spirit, Pulses/Radiance and Sahara albums – featuring also Noel Saizonou of Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble on vocals and percussion. It’ll also include a previously unreleased track from LOS-HEL: Possible Cities, with a Lagos Soundscape by Emeka Ogboh.

As Interspaces and Earth Variations continue falling into place (or into space) slowly, delayed by me continuing to encounter new exciting musicians and possible collaborators here in Paris, I came to notice these outtakes together formed already a rather coherent and interesting whole: like a more colourful sibling or ancestor to the two albums-in-progress. More info to follow soon.

An Unexpected Voice (from Ukraine)

This week I’ve been recording vocals with this Ukrainian soprano, Viktoriia Vitrenko, for the Earth Variations and Interspaces albums. We met accidentally and serendipitously two weeks ago at the Cité des arts in Paris, an encounter which I documented from word to word on an Instagram post of mine since it was the most unexpected as well as the swiftest start of a collaboration I’ve experienced so far.

“I met her in a hallway, by the door. I was returning from a break when I noticed that a woman walking ahead of me stopped by the open door of the studio I was working in and peeked inside.

‘Are you possibly looking for something?’ I asked her politely.
‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘There’s supposed to be a hiphop dance rehearsal somewhere here tonight.’
‘Well, I do occasionally breakdance when I’m working, but I’m sure that’s not the workshop you’re looking for,’ I said, joking only partially. ‘The hiphop rehearsals are usually over there, in Studio 5.’
‘What are you working on in here?’ Her curiosity surprised me. People here weren’t usually interested in what others were up to.
‘Oh, just on my music. You know, composing, recording, mixing…’ I fumbled.
‘What kind of music do you make?’
‘Erm, it’s electronic based but with lots of influences from different styles and from around the world…so hard to describe.’ I felt the usual ship of words sinking into the thought of an ocean of sounds.
‘That’s very interesting as I’m also a–,’ But before she could continue, we were interrupted by a pianist next door looking for a bathroom.
‘So, what do you do?’ I resumed when the pianist was on her way and we had both returned ashore.
‘I’m a singer.’
‘Oh…I’m actually looking for a singer at the moment.’ I hesitated for a second. ‘But it’s quite experimental…no lyrics or clear structures or anything like that…a sort of new ways to play with voice in music…’ I was sure that by now, in her ocean view, my ship had actually sunk. But her eyes lit up even further.
‘That’s exactly what I do!’ she exclaimed, becoming visibly excited. ‘I’m a soprano, singing mostly contemporary music, but I also work with electronics and experiment with my voice and singing a lot.’
‘Wow…that’s really interesting. Er…I don’t suppose you’d be–.’
‘Yes, I’d be happy to sing on your tracks!’

And that’s how every collaboration should start. No ego, attitude, negotiation, hesitation or hassle: simply openness, enthusiasm, resolution and curiosity to play and experiment.”

It really is astonishing to watch and listen to a world-class singer, two metres away, building layers of vocals on your tracks, elevating them instantly into something resembling a proper, serious music. She comes up with similar ideas I’d written in my notebook earlier but am yet to share with her, and then expands them much further, exactly the way I’d do it but could never have imagined. The voice transports you: our small studio space turns into a concert hall, then into an Afromontane forest between a desert and an ocean, before returning, via the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the Jonquet district of Cotonou, to a wooden cabin by a lake, with the stars just appearing in the late summer sky and the moonlight traversing the water’s still surface.

Afterwards we spend a couple of hours discussing philosophy, art, Detroit techno, Mediterranean cities, migration, and the possibilities of voice and sound as agents for social and political change. It turns out that she, like me, loves to deepen and expand her work through thinking and writing, reading and discussion. This happens so rarely with musicians – and understandably since music, at its best, evades all the words and thinking – that I want to freeze the moment for the eternity; I simply love this level and scope of commitment, curiosity, drive and professionalism. Through our conversation, I realise that my forthcoming book has begun to find its territory and form. Yet I can’t help wondering how random and unexpected, serendipitous it was that we met: in that hallway outside, by the door, just one night by chance.

Images: recent visualisations of some of the sonic atmospheres on the aforementioned albums.

Deep Bass / Interspaces

Next to my favorite table and intersection in Paris there’s a recording and rehearsal space called Studio Bleu. Yesterday we had a recording session there with bassist Omar Harb, for my albums Earth Variations and Interspaces.

I was blown away. I had reserved the studio for eight hours because I thought we’d need all that time to finish at least some of the tracks. Not had we just finished everything in four hours but Omar had made everything so much better than what I’d imagined.

Omar understands your music like a fish understands water when it meets it for the first time. He can play as figuratively and elaborately as you want (or couldn’t possibly imagine) or beat a machine in precision, duration and slight liveliness. There were moments when I had to hold back my tears because his melodic basslines made me simply recall how unbeatably lovely the world is – or hold back my idiotic grin of joy because of the ecstatic funkiness and a human-overcoming-the-machine of a kind of bliss of his playing.

Omar is originally from Damascus, Syria, where, since 2005, he used to run a very successful music production studio and company (“factory”) of his own, becoming a mainstay of a thriving new Syrian music scene, producing work that went on to win praise and awards across the Arab world as well as Europe. That all came to an end in 2011 when the war broke out, and eventually he and his wife had to abandon everything they had and flee to Lebanon. Since then he has lived and worked globally, collaborating with artists around the world. (He’s also one of the nicest human beings I’ve met.)

Since my Earth Variations started as an interdisciplinary sonic art project about migration and the refugee crisis but which got subsequently cancelled, I was struck: here I was with a guy who actually comes from the origin of all that, who has experienced it firsthand, personally having witnessed the bombing and killing and the destruction of his home and those of his family and friends, and having had to plan a daring escape through everything all these (art) projects try to grasp but can only intellectualise. Yet here he is in front of me, playing the most beautiful and life-affirming music that seems to know no crises, conflicts, borders, ideologies, territories, let alone any art projects, curatorioral practices and their momentary trends. This is life. This is why music exists.

Spring Makes Noise: Paris

Update from Paris after a lengthy silence (you can follow my more frequent snapshots of Paris and abstract visual “musics” on Instagram @ilpojauhiainen).

Time flies, and the noise the spring keeps making is mostly inspiring: an exhilarating mix of new music, ideas, encounters, conversations, collaborations, doubts, dead ends, openings, failures, idiot glee, love as well as writing, reading, cycling, “working it harder, making it better”.

Currently I have four to five albums’ worth of material floating around – and every one of these compositions works rather well with everything else. For a while I was playing with the idea of releasing just one album: every time you’d play it, it would choose a different set of tracks from these 40+ compositions, depending on the first couple of tracks and the time of the day. A generative and modular record, in a way. But since it’s not financially possible to finish so many tracks – unless I have a record label backing me (finding a record label that’d understand the territory I’m cultivating has become next to impossible) – I’ve decided to focus on two albums only. Naturally this has presented a new challenge: which tracks to pursue further and to include on these records when everything seems to suggest a fertile new direction.

Both albums are inspired by the sort of global multiplicity and potential that we’re living in – creolization of ideas, if you will. Where Earth Variations I moves through denser geologies with more classical, traditional and experimental musical influences, Interspaces travels through more open landscapes and vistas, drawing from electronic, popular and possible musics; the keywords connecting their desired production criteria read “soulful”, ”purposeful” and “timeless”. Paris has influenced the music enormously, as have my friend’s abstract expressionistic paintings that she’s been creating here during the past year (soon to be shown in her solo exhibition in Helsinki): their vivacity, multilayeredness, delicateness, movement, rhythm and pulse, beauty and sensuality emerging from chaos, turbulence and randomness…have resulted in a kind of evolved richness, clarity and maturity in my music that I haven’t heard before. Both albums will be out in the fall.

Paris is also rather fitting a place to be working on these albums in: it was here that I first got the idea for this kind of “global” music (for lack of a better word) when I first came here as an adolescent in 1995. I was listening to these two Malian musicians on the Pont des Arts, one playing kora, the other electric guitar and singing. I had never heard such music before, and everything about that moment felt so novel and exciting, full of future potential: the electrifying West African sounds, midnight in Paris, being in a global metropolis, meeting these people from around the world, travelling across the continent…I realised I could never be happy making “just” electronic music, it had to have this feeling and texture of the world woven into it somehow.

The question always is how far to develop these compositions though. I can easily hear some electronic parts being replaced or accompanied by real string quartets, intercultural ensembles, gospel choirs…but this would require a whole different level of financial investment. The pioneering Finnish electronic duo Pan Sonic used to always say that what they’re making is actually Jamaican dub and American rock’n’roll, but since they are just two taciturn Finns with electronic oscillators, they leave all those elements out. In a similar way, I’m always working with orchestras and gospel choirs in mind but since I can’t afford them, I leave them out in the final mix.

The theatre/dance production we worked on during the winter is currently on hold due to the pandemic; the related short film has been finished and I’ll share it once it’s being released. My “futuristc jazz” album has been postponed for the future: it simply doesn’t feel so thrilling to me at the moment, compared to the new music that has emerged here. Some of the promising musical collaborations have led to nowhere. My bicycle broke down (now fixed). And Paris…Paris continues to be love, a home in this galaxy of ours.

Radio Campus Paris Interview

Recently I had a pleasure to be interviewed for the experimental music show Planisphère on Radio Campus Paris. Dubbed lovingly in French, the 8-minute edited interview forms part of the episode 44 at https://www.radiocampusparis.org/planisphere-44-lamour-18… (starts at 1-hour mark); a longer version will appear later on their social media channels. Topics covered: possible musics, generative music, sound and philosophy, site-specific art, interdisciplinary work, West Africa, Afrobeat, complexity, Aihio (my duo with Petteri Mäkiniemi).

The pictures in the trailer are from my recent bike rides around Paris.

Paris – a multiplicity

A long postcard from Paris. Time just whizzes by.

The summer has finally turned into an autumn – the first time I felt my fingers freezing while cycling home late at night. Where did all that heat and endless blue sky go? Into working haphazardly on everything, meeting new people, cycling around Paris, going out, experiencing the city, settling down, pondering, searching for the meaning and motivation to continue making music: releasing albums digitally to muted response just won’t do anymore, I’m honestly done if that’s all there is for the function of music-making!

The end of the summer has fortunately coincided with the start of new conversations and collaborations. Paris, like any location, is an assemblage of different multiplicities, each multiplicity presenting a universe of ideas, encounters, possibilities. As the autumn leaves are preparing to fall, I’ve found myself on a plane connecting one such multiplicity to few others, entering exciting new becomings – meaningful and refreshing expressions of life, creativity and culture, if you will.

One such becoming is with this Swiss choreographer, dancer and director. Finally a long-term project that allows me to collaborate with other talents across the arts and other areas of the society for the next few years (why doesn’t this happen more often, especially since I’ve been more than ready for the past 20 years?). The details of our project may be discreet for now; the reason I bring this up is because it is our long conversations and shared experiences of Parisian culture that finally brought to an end my months-long impasse of trying to find the purpose for music-making. We don’t exist in isolation nor is the digital any answer: we need each other, real feedback and different talents to make the projects and worlds we care about happen. Behind every success story there are dozens of people with different skills working toward the same goal. My work has existed more or less in isolation (and digital ambiguity) up until now – not because I’ve wanted but because I haven’t encountered any like-minded scenes (and sceniuses) so far. I don’t really care about the popularity of my music per se: as long as I feel thrilled and passionate about what I’ve created, that’s all that matters; it’s the greater cultural and societal function of my creativity and dedication that bothers/matters to me.

And with this Swiss artist my long-term musical and societal interests have aligned with hers. Creating and imagining music for her project feels like serving a greater societal and cultural purpose than releasing albums into some digital amnesia that the internet represents.

Alongside this, Paris has presented some of the most fascinating live concerts I’ve experienced so far: between cultures, in a fourth world, between experimentation and tradition, like possible musics of the future (for one, check out the Palestinian composer Kamilya Jubran and her Terra Incognita project – and if you can’t find it, book her trio for your next festival/event 🙂 ). And I’m excited to say that I’ll be collaborating with some of these artists for my forthcoming albums Sharawadji and Earth Variations. I’ve been working joyously with a kind of “idiot glee” (as the painter Peter Schmidt put it) in my studio for the past week and have to concede once again: there’s so much potential and beauty in everything – so much incredible material – yet only less than 0.1% of that ever gets released. I guess the life wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Below some random snapshots from this transitional period. Paris is love, a home in this galaxy of ours.

Cité Artist Residency / Paris

Bonjour from Paris, my new hometown!

I’m currently doing an artist residency at the Cité internationale des arts for a year: working on various musics (Earth Variations and a tentatively titled album Sharawadji), developing the Future Forest Space II generative composition, and researching and writing (gravitating towards philosophy, judging by my recent haul from my local bookshop, Shakespeare & Company).

Paris has always felt like home to me, ever since my first visit here in 1995, so it feels wonderful to be able to immerse myself in this microcosm with greater time. While the city feels lovingly timeless and is always recognisable, it’s constantly permutating, evolving and progressing; it’s a multiplicity upon multiplicity upon multiplicity which never ceases to pique and inspire me.

Below some photos of the residence and its surroundings, with my crappy (apologies) phone camera.