Anton Kaldal, aka the Tonik in Tonik Ensemble, sits in the Grapevine office, mulling over the process of creating his new album, ‘Snapshots’. “It began back in 2010,” he recalls, “with the process of not wanting to release an album, ever. The original idea was just to whip out a bunch of tracks, but it evolved into each track taking five months to make, on and off. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was developing a palette, which became the sound of the album, with references to deep house and futurebeat; then adding vocals and a more cinematic feel. Three tracks in, I realised there was a coherent narrative appearing, and I started to open up to the possibility of an album.”
Anton is a thoughtful chap, speaking slowly as he forms his thoughts. This purposeful nature also manifests in his musical output—‘Snapshots’ is a refined, educated take on dance music, combining creative strings and brass with guest vocalists and a deep, immersive electronic soundscape. At the recent Iceland-focussed Eurosonic festival, Tonik’s seamless performance visibly won over the room; it is a sleek and seductive sound that works equally well on record as on stage.
“Performing live was important in allowing the songs to take a shape,” says Anton. “It fed back into the recordings. I wanted to position the sound in balance between various genres—it’s a matter of finding the right position. I allowed myself to take time over finding that, and adding detail—also playing with what I was capable of, and trying to evolve as a composer. Taking the structures in dance music, and playing with them, or breaking them down.”
Four years is an eternity in the fast-moving world of electronica. As a keen observer of this ever-shifting, novelty-obsessed music subculture, I wonder if Anton felt the context surrounding his work shifting as he was making it. “My solution to that is to work with emerging genres, but to think a bit bigger, and take the work out of that context,” he says. “Electronic music is a stream of micro-zeitgeists—every month there’s a new thing. So there’s definitely a conscious decision of whether you want to engage with that or not. I work within that sphere, but in my own way. By including classical or jazz touches, for example, the work is immediately distanced from that cycle.”
It’s an approach that’s clearly working—‘Snapshots’ succeeds at what it does partly because of the inclusion of a wide range of collaborators. Anton speaks about each one with warmth and admiration, from the groaning cello of Þórður Hermansson to Tumi Árnason’s saxophone squalls, or the varied vocal talents of Jóhann Kristinsson, Ragga Gísla, Hörður Már of M-Band and Shipsi, of the Latvian band Instrumenti.
“I like to take people out of their usual context,” says Anton. “Interesting things can happen. Bringing these varied artists into the project certainly elevated the whole thing to another level. They’re all huge talents—very creative, inspiring, energetic people.”
And how does it feel that the album is about to be released, after four years in the making? “It feels like watching a David Lynch movie,” smiles Anton. “It’s totally surreal. But it’s a nice feeling too. It’s a strange thing releasing music you’ve worked so hard on, a mixture of closure, and this void of, ‘What am I going to do now?’ But the only thing you can do is to continue to find the next steps—decide where to go in sound and conceptually,and how to branch out even further.”
See Tonik Ensemble perform on Friday at 22:50 in the SonarComplex.
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Posted February 10, 2015