Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine is back with album number three. Still serving as the sole composer of both music and lyrics, producer and musician of most instruments herself, Sylvaine takes the sound of her sophomore album Wistful (2016) and develops it into a more mature and contrasted form on Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone.
Tomatrax caught up with Sylvaine to talk about her latest work.
It’s been over two years since you were last featured on Tomatrax, what have you been up to over this time?
The short answer to that question would be writing “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”, as well as trying to get Sylvaine up and running as a live band. So much time and energy has gone into starting the live journey of the band, without even having played more than a few handful shows! But we’re getting there, slowly but surely.
You’ve just finished album number three, how does it feel to have it ready to go?
Considering we started the recording of it as early as in summer 2017, I am beyond ready to have this baby released, haha! It’s a bit surreal to know the album will be out in less than a month now…. I’m so anxious to see if people will feel something while listening to it. I poured every inch of my heart and soul into this record, I truly hope the listeners will be able to feel that.
What inspired you to make ‘Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone’ as the title track?
‘Atoms aligned, Coming Undone’ represents the feeling of decline when something unravels before your eyes. Little by little, something is worn down or broken, until it finally disintegrates completely, both internally and externally. Since this became one of the central themes on this record, it felt like the right title and since the song ‘Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone’ was the first track to really embody this feeling for me, it became the natural choice for the title track. It holds this feeling of being held in Abeyance, yet the frustration runs deep. It functions as a pattern, repeating over and over, without change, even if things keep getting darker by the minute.
What was the inspiration behind the video for Abeyance?
Making the video for “Abeyance” was a new and exciting process for me, being the first music video ever made for Sylvaine, but it was also a challenge to find the right ideas for a song that was over 5 min long. To hold the interest of the audience for that long, as well as making a cohesive and fitting story for the music, was interesting. The whole concept developed from an idea I had, of finding this creature trapped in some sort of cocoon, this being a metaphor for so many things, amongst others being trapped in a place, without being able to escape. I wanted the video to consist of 2 different worlds; the serene, beautiful and comforting forest and a dark, more hostile world, symbolized by crystals being grown and a more chaotic landscape within the nature. Once again, I wanted to draw inspiration form this dualism that my project seems to be so heavily influenced by.
You sang the song ‘Mørklagt’ in Norwegian, what made you decide to take on this approach?
I always wondered how it would feel to sing/scream in Norwegian, as it’s a language I have been speaking all of my life, but somehow, English has always seemed more natural to me. For ‘Mørklagt’ though, I had already drawn inspiration from my home country Norway for the music, so it just felt right to keep the lyrics in Norwegian as well. It felt totally different to sing in Norwegian. It brought a new dimension and timbre to my voice, both clean and harsh, so that’s very interesting. Might be using this again in the future, if the musical fit is right.
Does your approach to writing change depending on the language you use?
I don’t think it changes my usual process too much, no. I always felt like words written in Norwegian were to be taken more seriously somehow, without knowing exactly why, so perhaps it does make me a little more critical to what I put into the lyrics.
Once again you are the sole composer of both music and lyrics, producer and musician of most instruments, what made you decide to do almost all of the work on the album yourself?
Same reason as for my two previous albums; being able to express myself and my creative visions completely freely, without having to compromise anything to please others. Makes me sound like a control freak, but I guess that could be an accurate description anyway, haha…. To keep Sylvaine as personal as possible, I try to care for as many elements of the project as possible. This way, I really have an outlet for my most personal ponderings and issues, only challenged by myself.
The album pushes the duality between beautiful and extreme is it hard to mix the two extremes together into your music?
Since that’s been a duality I’ve been attracted to in music since I was a teenager, it comes quite naturally together, blending these two types of worlds. Pushing the boundaries between two opposites makes for an exciting journey to me.
You said that the music captures the feeling of being trapped and restraint by the human form. Do you feel like you are trapped?
I think we’re all sort of trapped when we are here in this human world. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a complete gift to be alive and make all these experiences we do during our lifetime, but I think it also limits us in terms of senses and emotions. It temporarily severs the ties we have with whatever came before and whatever comes after this life, making us lose touch with our origins. The human society and the mind sets we’re all more or less programmed to follow, seem to taint this innocence we naturally hold within ourselves when we’re born into this world.
There is a fair bit of emotion and feeling expressed across the album, is it hard to put something that personal on show for everyone to see/hear?
It is quite nerve-wracking to wear your heart on your sleeve to such an extent, yes, but that’s the only way I can make music. As many other artist, I use the creation process as a way to express profound wonders and issues that I’m not good at dealing with in any other way, as a sort of catharsis, so it amounts to very personal themes being explored in my melodies. Doing so leaves you open to be wounded easily by the words of others, but that’s just how it goes.
You’ve received a lot of critical acclaim for your past work, did this make you feel any pressure in putting this record together?
Of course it affects you when the outside world is kind of cheering you on. It’s such a treasure to receive all of these beautiful words from all of the world, so you don’t want to disappoint people with your next works. I’m always putting a ton of pressure on myself anyway, even without the outside feedback, so the creation process is never an easy adventure to take. I have a feeling it will just get harder as time passes by, being even more and more critical to my own work.
You toured around Russia and Ukraine last year, how did that go?
That was an amazing experience, really. I must admit that I didn’t even know we had fans over there and then we sell out our show in Moscow and have a couple of hundred people coming to our shows in both St. Petersburg and Kiev….. That was slightly unreal. I have this strong memory of playing my last song of the set, “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart”, which I usually do alone on stage, and hearing people sing along to the chorus….
Wow, I was so close to losing it right there and then. It was a dream come true.
Are there any plans to tour Australia?
That would be an absolute honor! I truly hope to be able to play in your beautiful country one day – I always wanted to visit both Australia and New Zealand, so hopefully it will be possible in the not too far off future.
Now that the album is done, what do you plan on doing next?
Next up is preparing everything for the release on the 2nd of November and then there’ll be some touring for Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone. After, work on the 4th record. At the moment, I’m working on a small EP actually, with more simplified material, that I might want to release at the end of next year or beginning of 2020. I had the urge to do something a bit more “acoustic” friendly, based more on guitars and vocal work, which is why I decided to make this EP. The songs are more or less ready, just need some finishing touches, before I figure out what I want to do with all of this. Time will show what awaits for us!
Check out Sylvaine’s website to find out more!