Flash of the Spirit – new album out now

My new album Flash of the Spirit is out now. This is my sixth album, and it builds on the direction begun on my previous albums Arrival City, Sahara and LOS-HEL: Possible Cities.

The album is inspired by my travels and experiences in West Africa. It’s a reflection on a kind of liminal global space, imaginary and real, that exists in between and beyond cultures, nations, borders, ecosystems, beliefs, social constructs, identities and differences. This space is always in the state of becoming: changing, emerging and suggesting new possibilities.

Similarly, the music defies any clear categorization and well-established aesthetics, existing and moving between Minimalism, Afrobeat, Electronica, Krautrock, Gospel, Ambient and West African traditional musics – as if heard and treated through a slightly futuristic perspective. My idea has been to make an approachable yet artistically uncompromising, melodic, rhythmic, emotive record, one that can grow on repeated listening over time. I always imagine the music that I’m making belonging to a possible future world (“music holds the promise of a different world”).

The title refers to the book of the same name by Robert Farris Thompson, which I’d read during my residency in Benin. It’s also a nod to the album of the same name by Jon Hassell & Farafina. It’s also a reference to those great “flashes of the spirit” that I kept coming across on my travels.

The album is available now on my Bandcamp site, and on all the other digital music stores and streaming services from 2 November onwards.

Flash of the Spirit

My new album Flash of the Spirit is finally reaching completion, ready to be mastered and released soon. Only one piece is still on the cusp of becoming either funky pop electro disco (LCD Soundsystem) or funky avantgarde disco experiment (Kraftwerk), always a tough choice. The album is based on my experiences in West Africa and on the adventures and conversations with my dear friends scattered around the globe, and it incorporates my field recordings from West Africa into the music. I’m immensely happy about this album and its emotional landscape I often ponder why I spend months in the studio joyously perfecting something that has absolutely no practical function in the world (I wish it had but it doesn’t). Am I wasting my passion, skills and dedication? Currently I think that I am since my music has no broader cultural resonance. But I can’t help it: when making music I feel like I’m participating in the whole scientific, social and cultural conversations in levels that go beyond ideologies, mindsets, borders, identities, beliefs…I feel free, inhabiting a culturally diverse, playful, socially and economically equal green world. Art becomes a tool to imagine and pull oneself towards a preferable future.

Yet this possible future keeps remaining just a ‘hope’ for most people on this planet, for totally unnecessary, outdated societal and financial designs. Why? On the planet where there are more resources – food, water, shelter, money – to cater for everybody than what’s needed, then why come there’s scarcity of everything: food, water, shelter, money?

I’m currently working also on new pieces by Emeka Ogboh for his exhibition in Paris, revisiting Lagos soundscapes and our LOS-HEL: Possible Cities, but this time from a whole different angle. It’s a refreshing departure from my album work, and Lagos has never sounded more contemporary and futuristic, thanks to Emeka’s musical vision. More info on this soon too.

Please redesign the world. All the problems in the world are utterly ridiculous, childish.

The last night in the studio

Finalnight

A wistful yet inspired last night in the studio before it closes for good. This studio has been my dedicated workspace for the past 3,5 years (apart from the 1,5 years I spent in Germany), and I know its sound and acoustics so well – hence the wistfulness of leaving. The space we operate in shapes greatly our being-ness / becoming-ness, and I’m curious to see how the next space will influence my output. I’ve worked on three albums here: Sahara, Pulses / Radiance, and the forthcoming Flash of the Spirit – or actually four, if one counts Egwutronica I + II, the 1-hour long composition I made for Emeka Ogboh’s installation in the Seattle Art Museum (those six months were one of the greatest adventures I’ve had in this space). Tonight finished a forthcoming single from the new album, currently titled Fela Mechanic. More info soon. X

No one will ever ask you to do the thing you want to do

Update on the lengthy silence: I’m having fun and productive days in the studio.

I’m currently working on a new album (actually three new albums but two of them require more time to mature) which will be out this summer. The music feels exciting though the funny thing is that all the pieces were originally made in the early 2000, 17+ years ago when I was living in London and obsessed with combining my ideas, impressions and passions of everything African, a continent where I’d never been to, with the cutting-edge electronic music at the time. I made probably over 300 tracks but in the subsequent years most of these became lost due to broken, discarded or stolen technology; some survived on old DAT tapes and harddrives. When this Kenyan poet and I initiated a project few years ago, where we were to combine her spoken poems with my electronic compositions – inspired by our collaboration on the Wild At Dusk track from my album Arrival City – I reworked several of those surviving pieces, enlightened by my extensive travels and musical experiences in West Africa by then. Nothing emerged from this collaboration (as is naturally the case with 99% of all the potential ideas out there) and I forgot most of them.

Amid my depression resulting from the release of Pulses / Radiance (for a while I felt that was going to be my last album ever: I had made it with huge enthusiasm, excited about its new musical landscape, rhythmic invention, new kind of feeling and the joy and energy that the tracks seemed to exude…only to be met with utter silence upon its release), I stumbled upon these reworked early London pieces and was amazed how complete they sounded: music from a colourful possible future! (This is a familiar pattern: the initial self-criticism gets lost in time and you hear things fresh). So I began to rework some of those tracks again, to fill the spaces originally intended for the spoken word to inhabit. And I must say, this will be one of the most melodic, emotional and funkiest records that I’ve put out – a sort of hybrid between Shimmer & Bloom, Arrival City and Sahara.

In the music business there’s always so much pressure on you to repeat the same thing over and over until you’ve polished/reduced your work into a marketable sleek product, devoid of any interesting life; to make music that just sounds like more music. I can’t do that, I get bored so quickly. Once I’ve explored something, I want to move onto new things, start experimenting again: to continue making music that feels like life, or a possible world, with all its imperfections, fragility, uncertainty, randomness, beauty, inventiveness and vitality. Yet there’s often so little encouragement and demand from the world for you to do that. To quote the words of the acclaimed artist Laurie Anderson: “No one will ever ask you to do the thing you want to do…do not wait for this to happen, it will never happen…so just think of what you’d like to do, what you dream of doing, and then just start doing it.” Of course the thrilling thing is when you discover that the work you did 17 years ago feels suddenly exciting and fresh again, that you’d been sort of ahead of yourself but not knowing how to harness that potential at the time. There’s a continuity to your ideas and colourful, if uncertain, journey.

Nocturnal rain

It’s difficult to work on music while the sound of nocturnal rain drifts through an open window: to me, the rain at night always sounds better and more interesting than any music ever made.

A guideline for music-making: “Does it sound better than evening rain?”

Against the subdued soundscape of the night, I’m currently finishing my new album (titled ‘Pulses/Radiance’), developing an accompanying piece to Monday Morning in Lagos (the idea of exploring street voices as musical source), and making a recording of Future Forest Space, the generative installation music that I made for Radio Forest in Klankenbos, Neerpelt (the recording will become part of their permanent soundscape collection).

“This universe is truly a magnificent spectacle, and needs to be mirrored.” -Björk

Recently I came across this comment by Björk, in an interview in which she was reflecting her passion for music and future dreams (you can read the interview here), and I felt suddenly greatly elevated – experiencing that feeling of Idiot Glee or “sheer mad joy at the world” as painter Peter Schmidt put it. Now, I think this would make a good guideline for economics and politics too, to mirror the magnificent spectacle of the universe instead of the tiresome waste of intelligence and life’s potential in the form of power struggles, ideologies and profits.

Listening to the nocturnal rain, most of the problems in the world appear so unnecessary, just pure waste of that intelligence and potential. And all of this waste while we’re living inside this wonder that is the universe.

With the rain comes a scent, a fresh smell of trees, plants and concrete. How extraordinary is that, one might wonder, in a universe so infinitely empty and lifeless?

 

Generative composition for a forest

The space for a forthcoming installation of mine: the inside and outside of an information/workshop/radio station hub in a forest in Belgium (Klankenbos, Neerpelt). This will be a 3-dimensional generative composition made specifically for and of the forest. After years of working with city sounds and focusing on the condition of urban spaces, it feels reinvigorating to explore the forest and the idea of ‘nature’ again (coming from Finland, the forest has always been a part of what I am). It’s also challenging because finally I’ve got an opportunity to incorporate all of my interests in one piece: those of ecology, chaos, complexity, nature/technology, long-term thinking, humans/nature, the future.

The piece, along with seven other works around the forest by my fellow artists, will be running from July 21st onward when there’ll be an unofficial opening; the official opening party will be on September 23rd, with live performances from us on a very ‘special’ stage. More info soon.