INTERVIEW: AKO | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“It started as a sort of concept EP about dead bodies on Mt. Everest,” Simeon Soden says of his latest collection as ako, LXXXIX. “If you died up there, your body is pretty much just going to sit there forever, inert. There’s definitely a sort of fatalistic romance to it really.” The juxtaposition between seemingly cold and calculated precision and sweeping romanticism is something that envelops a lot of Soden’s work under the ako moniker, and that’s no different on LXXXIX.

Across its five tracks, Soden travels from the dark fuzziness of ¿¿(one)-1 to the slightly sunnier synth loops of Stretch through a variety of movements. High Altitude Burial evokes the simultaneous grandeur and claustrophobia of early Gazelle Twin works, while Carrion Flower is driven by a looped vocal performance reminiscent of Zola Jesus, drowned in distorted beats. If you could choose one word to describe it, ‘dark’ would be a good pick.

Soden enjoys exploring some of the more niche and downbeat recesses of the electronic world. For LXXXIX, he took cues from minimal wave, which is closely related to one of his favourite styles, witch house. “The ideas explored in minimal wave and early synth stuff is kind similar to what witch house is getting at because those are very ‘cold,’ ‘detached’ styles, with a lot of morbid elements,” he says. To add to the mix, there’s his passion for exploring the process of making music, such as “stretching out audio tape” and “putting stuff deliberately out of tune to add a sort of subliminal jarring,” which contributed to some of the intricacies on the title track and Stretch.

A piece of music to me is an aesthetic space, like a room. We fill it with our own thoughts, feelings, ideas and decorate however we see fit

These experimentations mean that Soden is consistently defying genre labels. “Some people like to write to a criteria and like rules, they like to stand in a field with a fence round it, which is comforting. Some people like to wander round a bit more and think of the genres later and I think I’m in the latter category.” This genre-hopping also stops his music from becoming cold, staid and repetitive, often a criticism of contemporary dance music. “A continual theme for me is exploring the identity of the synthesiser as an instrument, exploring sound design and playing with the idea of ‘artificial’ versus ‘organic’,” Soden says.

Despite its inception as a concept album about “alpine death”, LXXXIX has gradually mutated into a more philosophical beast, tackling far-reaching issues surrounding machine music and human emotion. Soden doesn’t want to tell you what to think about his work though. “I don’t think any instrumental music has a meaning beyond what you give to it,” he says. “A piece of music to me is an aesthetic space, like a room. We fill it with our own thoughts, feelings, ideas and decorate however we see fit.” It’s left to you to decide what the real meaning behind LXXXIX is. “I could tell you what I think it’s about but your own hypothesis will be so much more satisfying on a personal level than anything I could ever come up with.”

ako releases LXXXIX on Friday 13th November.

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