Herbert and I have known for some time that Ell is an artist to watch out for. This November marks the release for Ell's debut track - 'Marlen,' which is the culmination of 5 years of testing, trying and making. The freshness and intricacy of his music is coupled with his ability to go one step further and engage his listener's emotions through his play on spaces through sound.
Ell, congrats – it must feel great to have Marlen out -
It feels really good. I’ve been working to get to this point for ... well if I think about it compositionally, technically, I got to a point about 5 years ago where I started to make material that actually captured how I felt. Once that happened, I started to putted the dots together on a page.
When you talk about 'that moment' – what was it that clicked for you?
When you record classical music, you are typically documenting a performance. Even though we have wonderful recordings, it’s not concerned with creating a stand-alone sound experience.
So, it became important to me to create something fully acoustic, which is quite rare. I also wanted to enter the recording process open minded, so that I could let my imagination run wild and reach new sounds -
We went into the studio and recorded each of the musicians individually. Isolating the sound lets you discover that instrument’s innate nature. From there you can also manipulate the sound to zero into their quality.
How long did it take to record Marlen in this way?
We took a year to record Marlen and two other tracks.
Yeah, but bear in mind, experimentation was a large part of this. We spent the first month really just trying different things out.
I wanted to play with space with the sounds I was using. There’s something called ‘spatialising,’ which is very popular at the moment in performance - it describes when musicians perform from different places in a venue. I took this a step further to create a dream like experience where anything could happen sound-wise (you also need a nifty producer!)
Apart from creating different avenues for sound, what is the extra effect of this for a listener?
It’s about the sensation of sound – and the different experiences you can have of sound. For example - if it doesn’t exist right in front of you, it can evoke a very different emotional character and adds this extra layer to the music.
Was there a specific set of emotions you wanted to evoke with Marlen?
Marlen is a portrait of a dancer that I met. We worked together for a week and I thought she was very beautiful. She had an energy and life about her which was …very special. It was also the first time that I realized how important it was to cherish that kind of beauty and life because it is so transient.
…that experience inspired me to write the track, and those are the emotions behind the sound choices, but ultimately it's up to the listener to decide how it makes them feel and what it means to them.
Is that Marlen on the cover?
Yes, of course it is! It’s funny, a lot of people that have seen the image seem to think it sexualises her. It makes me laugh because Marlen actually sent me that picture of herself for this track. For me, it captures the same energy and life that I tried to capture when I wrote and recorded the track.
As an artist that is trying to do things differently, are you used to that kind of opposition yet?
... I mean, my classical music education has been a story of pure persistence. I came from a pop music background, but I decided to switch to classical at the last minute with no formal training. To get in, I ended up teaching myself to transcribe music in a week and convinced the professor to take me on. That's why it's so important for me to try and stick to my vision.
What was it that made you shift to classical?
I liked the ambiguity of classical. Pop music is tied in with words/poetry. I found that words grounded the music too much for me – I like to leave my music very open for interpretation.
Apart from Marlen, do you have any tracks in the works for release?
I have the next portrait Nuha coming in the next couple of months, which like Marlen is an expression of a person and a moment in time.
Very cool - thanks for your time today Ell.
No, thank YOU. This has been fun.
Ell will be performing at Hundred years gallery on November 22nd - tickets available on the door.
He will also be performing at Q3 Ambient Festival in Potsdam - April 2020.
To stay in touch with Ell click here or here