Pin It
KorelessPhotography Eloise Parry

Five things that inspired Koreless’s debut album, Agor

How Ibiza, careers advisers, and memes came to influence the long-awaited record by the Welsh producer and FKA twigs collaborator

Koreless is passionate about his art. So much so, that while shooting the video for “Black Rainbow”, he sprained his ankle after trying to reenact the Gloucester Cheese Rolling competition. Inspired by the slow-motion, super HD videos of the annual dairy chasing event that “started looking like romantic paintings, really baroque, brutal, but kind of hilarious at the same time,” he set out to film a version of his own. There were complications, though: a stunt performer told him the insurance alone would cost tens of thousands of pounds. They tried to film the real thing, but it got called off due to COVID. Luckily, his brother stepped in and they constructed a costume for him with plenty of soft orthopaedic padding. The result is a masterpiece of slo-mo tumbling, befitting of the track which swoops and lurches just like a body falling down a hill.

The Welsh producer’s devotion to his art is also why his debut album, Agor, has come out exactly a decade after his first single, “4D”. Emerging from the fertile electronic scene of 2010s, his tracks from that era are cemented firmly in the canon of UK electronica (although he’s adamant that “I really didn't know what I was doing at all,” labelling those tracks “very simple blocks of Lego”). In the period between his last proper release, 2015’s TT/Love and now, he produced for FKA twigs’s Magdalene, M.T. Hadley, and even Rita Ora. He’s supported Caribou on tour and worked with James Holden and Luke Abbott on a live show.

But the album took so long, “honestly, (because) I put this huge amount of pressure on myself to make it. I didn’t really know what an album even was at that point, really,” he says, speaking from his family home in Wales where he’s visiting his parents. “It was a really horrible process, really grueling and not nice or productive really,” he says, explaining he‘d been “really quite unhealthy about the whole thing for a few years, throwing loads of stuff out and making a million versions of everything”. After – finally – thinking it was complete, he travelled to New York to mix it before realising something was missing and scrapping half of it.

Koreless’s meticulous attention to detail is ever-present across the album’s ten tracks, from bright and harmonic moments to deep plunges into darkness where the floor seems to fall from beneath you. ‘Agor’ is the Welsh word for ‘open’, and there’s an irony in the record being produced mainly in tiny black box studios around London. Naming the album, he says, was one of the hardest processes; it took longer than any single track did to make. “(‘Open’) makes sense because there are these ruptures on the album, sonic wormholes that I call ruptures”. Below, he tells us about how going to university in Scotland, getting a young insight into trance music, and more inspired the sonic brilliance of Agor.


Koreless: We live in the middle of nowhere here, and one of my first exposures to music was my uncle sending up these pirated, trancey Cafe Del Mar compilations. I didn’t know where Ibiza was or anything like that, this music would just arrive without context with janky photocopying so you couldn’t read it. I was struck by the fact that there wasn’t an artist behind the music, the vocals were very anonymous but would be front and centre. You don’t know who the person singing is, and it’s almost angelic. I’ve always had that approach to vocals, where there’s no real words, but more of an angelic presence. I'm hesitant to call it choral, but more like a ghost or something?

There was one track (on the compilation) by A. R. Rahman called “Mumbai Theme Tune” which is just the most apocalyptic, epic piece of classical music ever. I remember my uncle playing it as we were driving through the mountains, it sounded like classical music but all done on synths in the Dorian scale, very Celtic-sounding but also... it’s written by A. R. Rahman. It had this Balearic thing going on – not that I knew what Balearic was then. Whatever I try and do, my music always ends up veering towards epicness because of stuff like that. I can't help myself, it just happens!


Koreless: Every producer has loads of plugins that they don’t know what they do, so I thought I’d try every one of them. One of them was for cleaning up background noise from podcasts, so I started running it hundreds of times over the same bit of sound to see what would happen. You end up with bits of glistening sound, like barely anything left, you’ve cleaned everything out of it. Then that became one of the big sonic signatures on the record; glistening sounds. 

Weirdly, though, the only person that’s ever said to me, ‘I know how you did that’ was Skrillex. He walked into the studio once when I was doing a twigs song, and said, ‘Oh, you're using…’ and named the plugin. I was like, ‘Motherfucker!’ He’s a legend though, he’s really up for getting down and dirty on things. I’ve seen him go through like 150 tracks and tidy them all up, which is probably quite rare for someone of his size, so he’s really sick. Big respect.


Koreless: I had this bank of pictures in the studio, like a picture of a gorilla on a tightrope and he’s just standing and he’s super calm. A picture of these two tigers, a boy with face paint. A sort of ceremony that was unbelievably beautiful looking. They were just pictures from Reddit, but there’s something really beautiful about them all. All of those images accidentally look like masterpieces. The only way I can ever write music is usually as a joke at the beginning. Like, putting together two really stupid ideas, and then I can’t help myself but make everything feel really melancholy and epic. Like “Shellshock”, it’s a funny joke, I can’t explain why it’s a joke, but it's a really silly song.

“When I’m working on pop music now I’m still thinking about it in quite a sculptural, dubsteppy way, in terms of space” – Koreless


Koreless: I went to Glasgow university to study Naval Architecture, because that’s what my careers adviser said would be a cleverer thing to do than music production. And in Glasgow I met some of the most important people in my life, the Numbers crew and the dubstep scene up there, or the waning end of dubstep. I went from Bangor to this place where we were going to clubs every night, and I couldn’t imagine anything in life more important than what was happening. I think that’s probably an age thing, but it was like a Grand Theft Auto map where it’s all grayed out and you have your ‘Ah shit, here we go again’ moment and unlock the town. That was Glasgow. 

I think there’s a very specific thing in the water there, like a kind of Glasgow funk. Subtlety isn’t a thing there in the music and the way that people play, it’s a very direct and clean, stripped-back, mainlining way of DJing. Stuff that was happening on the waning end of dubstep was really important for me as well, in the way that sound became sculptural. When I’m working on pop music now I’m still thinking about it in quite a sculptural, dubsteppy way, in terms of space.


Koreless: I’ve learned so much from her. Her way of approaching sound and working with people is really interesting. She’s very good at a lot of stuff. She has the most amazing sound memory, where she can remember a sound that happened for like three seconds, four months ago, and is hidden on a hard drive somewhere, and she goes, ‘What about that little sound that sounded like this?’ And I'm like, ‘What...?’ 

She’s directed one of my videos – basically it’s me sitting on top of a Lamborghini, fishing. I texted her being like, ‘Do you just want to make this?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah fuck it, I’ll do it!’ She sent me this picture, a meme of a dude sitting on top of a Lamborghini. And she went, ‘This is you, and this is your album’. Her idea was that it’d look like a Greek myth. It was a really ridiculous thing that would probably never have happened without her.

Koreless’s ‘Agor’ is out via Young now