MSEA’s Our Daily Apocalypse Walk is an otherworldly achievement
Since moving from Toronto to Reykjavík in 2017, Maria-Carmela Raso has been a prominent figure in the city’s music scene. Under her artist moniker MSEA, she has lent her talents to chart-topping acts like Hatari and Kælan Mikla, while being active in the local grassroots community, both as a solo performer and a concert curator.
With a slew of releases already to her credit, MSEA is now celebrating the September 15 release of her latest album, Our Daily Apocalypse Walk.
Inspired by MSEA’s dream journaling, which she conducted over a two-year period, Our Daily Apocalypse Walk invites the listener into Maria’s fantastical dreams, which exude an almost nightmarish quality. Exacerbating the album’s dark tones is its cover art, depicting disfigured representations of the artist in digital render, spectacularly created by artist María Guðjohnsen.
“I really wanted the body to not look completely human,” MSEA says nonchalantly from her studio/office in the Hafnarhaus creative space. “And also to not look like Barbie,” she continues. These days, MSEA is busy being a full-time mom while also promoting her latest creation.
With some of the songs dating back to early 2020, the album title is derived from the last track composed for the record, which Kælan Mikla’s own Laufey Soffía co-wrote the lyrics to. It wasn’t until that last composition came into being that the album title was conceived.
“Before it got its title, it was called Wake Up, We’re Disappearing,” MSEA says “Before we started recordings, a lot of what was coming to me was this idea of disappearing. After going through the pandemic, just kind of feeling like, ‘I’m not totally here anymore,’” MSEA explains.
Exploring the intangible
This feeling of fading permeates the album. Sweeping synths and off-kilter melodies draw you into MSEA’s dream world. In a previous conversation with The Grapevine, the artist had mentioned the album feeling like, “a misty night. Taking a drive surrounded by fog.”
MSEA’s expression of fogginess and ethereal feelings is ever-present. In “Mouth of the face of the sea,” MSEA contrasts the natural with the unnatural, as a vocoder parallels her laid-back slam, “How do we remove all of the dirt from our past?”
Although not distinctly depicted on Our Daily Apocalypse Walk, a common theme in MSEA’s work is the past – it influences her escapist album Hiding Under Things and the retrospective I Turned Into A Familiar Shape, released in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
In Apocalypse Walk, MSEA’s treatment of the past is somewhat liminal. “I think this album is maybe a little bit less focused on the past,” she starts. “I think it kind of sneaks in whether I want it to or not.”
The album feels like a soundtrack to a scene of someone going out for a pack of smokes, only to vanish into the night – perhaps with a forged passport in their pocket.
The stuff of nightmares
Unsurprisingly, the album sounds otherworldly, as MSEA found inspiration for the record in her dreams. “During the pandemic, I started having vivid dreams. I started telling my partner about them. And so I bought this little black book and every day if I remembered my dream, I would write it down. It started very casually, but then eventually they just kept getting more and more vivid, almost lucid,” MSEA explains.
Filling three notebooks over the course of two years, the nightly visions became Maria’s source material. “It’s also really fun going back and reading them. There are some crazy things in there.”
The album feels like a culmination of MSEA’s work throughout the years, resulting in a true representation of the artist’s soundscape and music. Every decision and every sound on the album makes sense in MSEA’s twisted world. “It’s the first album I’m happy with,” confesses MSEA, regretting the fact that her previous albums could have done with more work.
“I’ve listened to this album a bunch of times and I’m not sick of it. I think that’s a good sign,” she remarks. “I wonder if that’s partially just because I’ve gotten better at making music.”
Although heavily based on electronica, MSEA used analogue instruments to replace her usual electronic sounds. The album features guitarist Úlfur Alexander Einarsson, violinist Ana Luisa Diaz de Cossio, cellist Rún Árnadóttir, clarinet player Bergþóra Kristbergsdóttir, plus additional personnel Árni Árnason and Julius Rothlaender, and MSEA’s supporting band invoking a myriad of organic sounds.
“I work alone for so long before bringing anyone in. The recording process is really the first time I’m sharing the music and getting feedback and ideas from other people,” comments MSEA on the album process.
In addition to promoting her latest album, MSEA is also developing a practical approach to doing the music justice live. Joining MSEA in her new live iteration are musicians Sigurlaug Thorarensen of BSÍ fame, Halla Kristjánsdóttir and drummer Ægir Sindri Bjarnason. “And then there’s the computer, which is also a band member,” jokes MSEA.
“It was a bit of a struggle to figure out how to play it live. I think we have found the balance. There’s very little playback now,” she says, referring to her previous experience as a solo performer. Having almost perfected her live set, MSEA now favours the organic approach, minimising the predictability of computer playback.
“There’s more energy in playing life. I think we all feel more connected when things can slip through our fingers. [Playing live] started feeling really repetitive and almost like karaoke,” MSEA confesses.
MSEA puts her newest performance set to the test on October 10, when she will be playing at the Harpa concert series Upprásin. “We’ll be playing a bunch of shows. I really want to start writing again, whether as MSEA or not is the question,” says Maria and leaves her future plans open-ended.
Catch MSEA perform in Harpa’s Kaldalón as part of Upprásin. More information and tickets can be found at www.harpa.is
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!