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Photography by Trevor Traynor

Hear Eskmo’s cinematic album about the sun

Listen in widescreen to SOL, the electronic artist’s biggest project yet

"It turned into a more cinematic thing, for sure," says LA-based artist Eskmo of his second album, SOL, which is finally arriving on R&S offshoot Apollo five years after his Ninja Tune debut. "I don't listen to club stuff at all." Instead, what's been filtering into his sound is the influence of a collective of composers he's been working on live shows with in LA; the influence of wide open landscapes he's visited and recorded in Yosemite, Costa Rica, and Egypt; the influence of impersonal ideas about the universe, and of very personal ideas about love and loss. 

If that sounds ambitious, that's because it is. SOL is a widescreen experience, full of diluted beats that leave acres of space for the trickle of field recordings and weaving of string sections and piano tinkering. Listen below, and read on to find out how the album that began as an attempt to conceptualise the sun as a "single drum hit" transformed into a very personal narrative. 

Can you explain the idea of the sun behind the album?

Eskmo: Originally when I started writing the album, I specfically wanted to write an album that sounded like the sun. The title track “Sol” and “The Light of One Thousand Furnaces” came out of that idea. And then I had a lot of stuff happen in my personal life, I had a relationship end, and then a couple of really specifically heartbreak-oriented songs came out of it. I thought, okay that doesn’t really work for the sun thing, but I like the songs, so I’m gonna keep them. And then my biological dad passed things shifted, relationship stuff...For me, it turned into this thing: it ended up with the sun being the central urge; the moon being related to the heart, female stuff I was experiencing, and the earth being the human side of it.

I’ve always equated the sound of tinkering to humans. If you were to zoom out, the sound that an ant colony might make. I kind of picture that that’s how humans sound. For the sun, I wanted to get this beaming, big feeling. The sun is a drum - I specifically was inspired by this idea, that our whole entire existence on the planet seems like a huge thing, but imagine zooming out and seeing our sun is just a singular drum hit. For us it seems like it’s going on forever, but imagine, if you were to zoom way out, the sun just seems like a ittle blip of energy, and it happens that our whole lives are based around that one blip of energy. I tried to convey that through big, saturated tones.

There’s a lot of field recordings on the album; where did those mostly come from?

Eskmo: I was in Costa Rica for seven days, I brought my field recorder, and I recorded horses and rivers and some stuff in the little town that was nearby, just a lot of nature stuff. “Tamara” and “Can’t Taste” specifically happened when a relationship ended that day. I took my field recorder and propped it on my friend’s piano, and I recorded for about an hour, just whatever came out, and then I took some of the really solid bits from that.

For “Feed Fire,” in Aspen I was recording fire and snow; “Blue Grey” has water I recorded in California. I beleve there’s a sample from Egypt in there somewhere. I really don’t go out trying to capture stuff pre-emptively, but I’ll bring my field recorder with me, it’s small enough that it doesn’t really feel like work. I’m able to still be present.

What inspired you about your travels to Costa Rica?

Eskmo: Something I’ve been doing in America is learning more about traditional Native American culture. I’ve visited a couple reservations...and over the past years I’ve sat in a few of their teepee meetings. The Costa Rica trip was a medicinal ayahuasca retreat, so I was there for seven days in the jungle with a small group of people that I know. I learned a lot. I learned a tremendous amount about trust; trusting myself, trusting a community...I really took away a sense of self-love and self-acceptance, in a very visceral, impactful way.

Alongside this album, you’re preparing a presentation for deaf children that you’ll be touring around the country. Could you tell us about that?

Eskmo: Last April, I did an AV show with some of the Brainfeeder guys; it was in a movie theatre in downtown LA. It was just a regular movie theatre, but we put in a soundsystem and did a show in front of the screen. Prior to that, I had started working with this company called SubPac, which is basically a tactile vibrating bass pack...We had thrity of those packs in the movie theatre, and it went really well. So the idea I had was to do the same kind of thing, but a scaled-down version - instead of crazy 3D trippy visuals, something really simple, 2D and flat and childlike, and to do the show for deaf kids. The kids could sit int he chairs with the vibrating bass pack while watching a video that specifically correlates to what they’re feeling from the pack. I basically wrote a song that’s just a minute and a half of sub music - there’s no other music, it’s just sub notes playing with each other, kind of talking back and forth. I want the visuals to correlate to that, so it’s almost like there’s a narrative happening. And afterwards, the kids can play with the visuals on a MIDI keyboard. We’re doing a trial in San Diego this month, and ideally looking to do the first official one in March and then one in April in New York.

Bjork actually really inspired me, I found out about this a few years ago - during her tours, she’ll go to big cities and she’ll do a few shows, one of them a big show, and one of them a smaller show, and then she’ll do a kids' workshop. She gets to stay in a place for a few days and work with kids, and I thought, that’s so good, why don’t I just do that myself? That would genuinely inspire to actually want to get out on the road and do stuff.

Apollo Records will release Sol on March 2; order it here