Today's artist is for those looking for chilled sounds with some gravity, night music, ambience with a clear pulse. This is downtempo music for the cyber generation - ultramodern, hallucinatory sounds that make you feel cool just by listening. If you enjoy experimental downtempo synthesiser music that is still comfortably listenable, if you want something to drive to after dark, if you want something tranquil yet challenging ........N'Joy
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Excellent interview, background on Carbon Based Lifeforms
Behind the name Carbon Based Lifeforms stand the two Swedish musicians Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad, their body of work spanning five albums and an original soundtrack for the movie Refuge. In the early summer I met with half of the duo, Johannes, for a gig on a small piece of land north of Copenhagen, Denmark. It was his second time there. Last time he was accompanied by his band-mate Danel who unfortunately could not be there this day. We talked for a bit, about the place we were at, the energy there, and what we had going on. Since then we’ve been emailing back and forth and the result is a series of questions and answers.
In case some of the readers have not heard of you or your music before, please introduce yourselves.
Tell us your musical story. Where did you start and how did you end up where you are today?
We got introduced to music making by Mikael Lindquist (aka: Tony Montana, Oxygenial, Digidroids etc.).He made music on his Amiga using a very basic audio sequencer named Fasttracker. So we joined forces with him forming the tracker group “Bassment Studios”. After a few years of tracking we moved on to MIDI and sequencers and formed a group called Notch.
With Notch we explored most of the genres of electronic dance music. We had quite a big impact on various sites around the web and despite various discussions with a lot of different labels we only released a remix of Mourning After’s – “What would you think” (Swedish synthpop, released on pulsewave records)
We really fell in love with the ambient genre after Johannes sister randomly had picked up a copy of Solar Quests “Orgship” (still one of our absolute favorite ambient records). After listening to that record for a few months we felt we needed to make something similar. So we made a few chilled out tracks under the moniker Notch but we soon realized that we would like to make more, which lead to the forming of Carbon Based Lifeforms, focusing only on drones, chill-out and ambient. We got signed to Ultimae and things kind of took off from there.
This may or may not be an obvious question, but what’s your favourite synthesizer?
There are so many beautiful machines out there, but if we have to pick just one, it would probably have to be Rolands TB-303. The TB-303 is arguably one of the most popular and recognizable instruments in electronic music ever. It has been used by tons of leading musicians and even laid the foundations for a whole genre, acid house. The specific ‘acid’ sound still has a cult following to this day. In your own words, what is it about this machine that makes it so special ? Despite being such a simple instrument it’s extremely versatile, as it can be very aggressive when distorted and at the same time fluffy and bubbly when treated nicely. The super organic but still machine-like sound combined with its quirky sequencer makes this machine unique. Our music aim is to combine nature and technology so it fits right in for us.
You’ve been in the game for many years now. What keeps you going? What’s your motivation?
The motivation comes and goes, but the feeling when a track comes together is kind of hard to beat, also playing live when the audience is really with you all the way makes a huge impression as well and is a huge source of energy for us. When you’re not in the studio, what do you like doing? How do you spend your time? Hanging out with family and friends, watching movies, playing video games and we spend quite a lot of time at the pub :) And what about when you are in the studio? Do you have any specific rituals ? No specific rituals, it’s more about tinkering with the machines and seeing what happens.
How do your tracks come to life? What processes do they go through in the making?
If the tinkering is fruitful we get an embryo for a track and kind of work on the embryo until it’s a complete track. This process usually takes us quite a lot of time. When it comes to the production Johannes likes to get lost in a lot of details on sounds and Daniel is usually the one to get things rolling again. Except when it comes to drums and percussions, then the roles are pretty much reversed :)
Festival season is just around the corner now. Are there any shows you’re especially excited for this season?
We’re actually writing this at boom, we’re playing the Sacred Fire stage tonight. All the gigs we’ve done this summer has been really great. But playing together with Magnus a.k.a Solar Fields (as T.S.R) at Ozora was probably a highlight though. Do you prefer big festivals or smaller intimate settings or club performances?
Generally there is more energy when playing the larger festivals, but it’s not as intimate as playing smaller venues.
What’s the strangest gig you ever played?
That would probably be when Daniel was left at the airport in Moscow by some festival organisers, the festival had been cancelled but they did not bother to tell anyone. Luckily Ultimae had a contact in Moscow, Andriy at Psyway, and he came to the rescue and brought Daniel to another party deep in the russian forests. The people there were really kind and managed to pool together for a tent and a sleeping bag, so Daniel played that party instead and it turned out to be a really nice show. The inspiration for the track Somewhere In Russia came from this episode and it features a poem from one of the guys at the party.
What did you want to do when you were kids?
Johannes wanted to be an inventor and Daniel wanted to be a musician :)
What kind of people do you think listen to your music?
Thats a tough one, we’ve discussed it at length ourselves. Our best guess it’s a healthy mix of trance people and programmers :)
You recently made the soundtrack for the movie Refuge. What’s the next adventure for you?
The next big project for us is to start the production of a new album. We’re aiming to go back to the more filtered sound of Hydroponic but with the melodic side of Interloper, but of course this is just what we’re aiming for, we usually end up with something completely different in the end :) But since the last two albums we did were more or less beat less stuff we’re definitely going for more drums this time around.
Interview taken by Mønsterhed for psybient.org project
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Intricate, liquid clear downtempo rhythmic electronica. CBL make good use of clean pulsing basses, sequenced synths and undulating electronic tones & pads. There are a wealth of semi-submerged sonic ephemera, hypnotic effects and voices creating an interplay with the melodic structures - always well placed, carefully crafted and seemingly essential to the aural environment being established. The sound is very contemporary, the beats processed, programmed - no real drum kits sounds here. Frequently Hydroponic Garden gives the impression that there might just be another layer of sound somewhere on the edge of hearing below the obvious.
The mood is almost dark - or rather, dimly lit shade with pools and clouds of blue/green coloured light. Hydroponic Garden evokes deserted, nocturnal urban visions - like watching the city at night from high up, behind glass. The atmosphere is eerily hi-tech, synthetic organic - glassy, aquatic chimes, swells, washes and contours; languid chilled beats; distant voices that don't address the listener but sound instead like random transmissions or moments of overheard whispering conversation.
Pure electronic instrumental bliss. Melodies on the album tend to loop and repeat, being moody rather than 'catchy' - layers of sound fade in, overlay one another, evolve and slip away. The duo have established a sound that feels expensive - exquisitely crafted sounds, with myriad effects everywhere - pans, tone shifts, reverberations, constant intriguing incidentals - yet technique is never intrusive or overly self conscious. The percussive elements, when present, suggest drifting in slow motion over a world moving at double time. The laid back beats and strong melodic structures seem to dissipate somewhat as the album moves on - later tracks are increasingly ambient, with more drones and drifting structures as though night has taken deeper control.
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Hydroponic Garden (flac 390mb)
01 Central Plains 8:07
02 Tensor 5:43
03 MOS 6581 (Album Version) 7:10
04 Silent Running 7:04
05 Neurotransmitter 7:27
06 Hydroponic Garden 9:12
07 Exosphere 5:05
08 Comsat 7:07
09 Epicentre (First Movement) 5:57
10 Artificial Island 5:11
11 Refraction 1.33 8:18
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Hydroponic Garden (ogg 171mb)
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Dreamy pads and luminous shades against rhythmic sequences and distinctive downtempo beats. World Of Sleepers drifts from weightless ambient mists where synthetic minutiae hang on the artificial air like sonic spangles through to climactic driving structures where circling arpeggiators and steady beats reach almost anthemic intensity. Crunchy loops, distorted crackles and percussive ephemera are laid against low bass kicks in restful downtempo structures frequently interlocking with sequencer patterns and rubbery, pulsing basses. Male and female voices populate a number of the tracks - whispered, softly spoken, recurring, spelling obscure formulae, murmuring thoughtful musings. The electronic atmospheres that float in the softer interludes are cleverly spun into organic complexity. multi-layered and painstakingly punctuated with intriguing detail.
World Of Sleepers maintains Carbon Based Lifeforms almost scientific precision and amorphous drifting transparency - the sound is classy and incredibly well-produced. The mood passes from beatless pools and fogs where everything is hazy and soft-edged through subtle rhythmic passages where a low volume beat way back in the mix or a simple bass throb carries the current forward, sonic peripherals meandering, spiralling past the ear, then we're into percolating cycles where bass riffs and sequenced motifs build into mechanical regularity.
This album expands the garden initially planted on Carbon Based Lifeforms' debut - the sound is very familiar and the musical approach similar. Indeed this expansion of the previous project is acknowledged in that the track titles begin here with number twelve and run up to twenty two - a continuation as opposed to a new concept. Not that this is in any way a negative thing, there is so much to explore in this nocturnal world, the deliriously dreamy title track, for example, exploring a depth previously unfathomed - gloriously soporific and lazily buoyant.
Carbon Based Lifeforms - World Of Sleepers (flac 399mb)
12 Abiogenesis 6:37
13 Vortex 5:55
14 Photosynthesis 5:41
15 Set Theory 6:41
16 Gryning 6:19
17 Transmission / Intermission 4:28
18 World Of Sleepers 5:17
19 Proton / Electron 6:44
20 Erratic Patterns 6:55
21 Flytta Dig 5:09
22 Betula Pendula + Mechanism 19:44
Carbon Based Lifeforms - World Of Sleepers (ogg 179mb)
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Carbon Based Lifeforms recently stated that there was a album finished and ready to be released in early 2009. This would have made sense seeing how Hydroponic Garden and World of Sleepers were released in 2003 and 2006. The 2009 album, got scrapped, for reasons unknown. The acid element could have remained a bit higher in this release (because their previous two albums were super-saturated with 303 work, whereas here, it's pretty minimal). Their experiments with voice and guitars produced a more fluid and delicate sound here. This album contains pure magic psybient sound, like a trip to the subconscious.
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Interloper (flac 385mb)
24 Interloper 6:00
25 Right Where It Ends 6:49
26 Central Plain 7:12
27 Supersede 8:00
28 Init 7:27
29 Euphotic 7:18
30 Frog 7:20
31 M 5:28
32 20 Minutes 7:26
33 Polyrytmi 8:44
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Interloper (ogg 152mb)
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The trip with otherworldly sounds created by Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad had started long time ago together with the advent of their debut album called "Hydroponic Garden". The artists wanted to create a purely ambient album for a long time. Finally they managed to fulfill their dream, which resulted in the "Twentythree" album. Until now Carbon Based Lifeforms have accustomed us to other kinds of tunes, more dynamic, very often laced with acidic atmosphere. While getting familiar with this album do not expect something you know from their previous albums. Here the Swedish wizards leave every sonic adornment and their typical sound behind and take up pure beatless core, achieving ambient apogee, made immortal by the likes of Biosphere.
As one of their leading motifs on this album Johannes and Daniel introduce deep space shrouded in mysteries, where mankind tries to find even the scarcest answers, some significant singnal from infinite frontiers. It is pure ambient at its best, served in and elegant form and an elegant packing, which continues the tradition of Ultimae Records releases' new cover designs established by the "Origin #01" album by Solar Fields. Nice pastel colors presented on the cover contrast in an intriguing way with peculiar colors of space created by the sounds. Imagine that you can levitate freely and effortlessly without any kind of help from a special space-suit, or the necessity to breathe. Long and hypnotic portions of sounds, which dominate throughout the whole thing, emulate a free flight into the infinite cosmic abyss. Everything seduces and sucks further into the bottomless sonic pit like an invisible sprayed mist of pheromones. Along with the following chapters of this story we will find ourselves in Puerto Rico ("Arecibo" and the famous radio telescope), Russia ("Somewhere In Russia"), Socorro in New Mexico (the "VLA" track, the title of which stands for the Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory), or London ("Kensington Gardens"). Although the material presented here is far from the past CBL releases, one can still feel characteristic features of the Swedish artists' music, who try to convey their visions in an extremely tasteful way, building consistently a truly unearthly atmosphere. The album is great for soothing oneself, perfect for headphones. Delicate, floating ambient music will lull both the body and the mind to sleep, relax, enable deep reflections - whatever you want, guaranteed it is without any movement on your part. Just you and the sound.
CBL succeeded in catching the full attention with this album. It's beautiful, melancholic and deep in its own way. It is a beautiful backdrop of dreams and a cloak of space enchanted in sounds, just waiting for our presence and inviting us to explore it with every single piece of our minds.
Carbon Based Lifeforms - TwentyThree (flac 294mb)
01 Arecibo 9:21
02 System 7:32
03 Somewhere In Russia 8:36
04 Terpene 5:57
05 Inertia 10:33
06 VLA (Edit) 10:01
07 Kensington Gardens 6:24
08 Held Together By Gravity 8:05
Carbon Based Lifeforms - TwentyThree (ogg 128mb)
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