Thursday, November 16, 2006

Quiet Music For Quiet People

I've buggered this up by posting Inga Liljestrom's image with the review of the rude food burlesque show this image goes with. I just wanted to post this because although I'd seen it a couple of times, it only dawned on me when it came out in the mag with my review that the kitchen it was shot in is none other than the one I work in. I was looking at it thinking hey, she's in one of those jacuzzi-sized stock pot things we have... it's just like it. And that fridge looks just like the three door we have. And... wait a minute...

So yeah. Interview with Inga revealed that she works in a button shop across the road from my shop, and this publicity shot was taken where I work. Both pieces appearing in the same issue of Drum Media. Kwinky dinky.

Here is the interview with the delightful Inga Liljestrom...



Inga Liljestrom. There is even music in the name. It’s the music of solitude and heart ache, of bittersweet melancholy. And it’s because of this that I worry when I phone at the agreed time that I will be disturbing her, interrupting some distant reverie as she gazes over a stark landscape and writes her poetry. And indeed she does ask me to wait one second after answering her phone because she is “at work.” I feel like a clumsy intruder already; have I just ruined the flow of the creation of her next release?

However, it turns out that this remarkably talented song writer, performer and producer is at work like a regular person. Job type work. The person who sang me to sleep the night before with her unique style of dream-like, haunting sorrow spends her Saturdays in a shop.

“I do music basically five days a week,” she tells me after relocating to the rear of the store. “But I’m working on Saturdays in a button store. It’s gorgeous in here. It’s like stepping into Amelie. It’s a lovely experience. It feels like you’re in Europe or something.”

One clumsy intruder is instantly enchanted.

Add to the enchantment a healthy dose of fascination too, because unlike her previous release Elk, which was two years in the making, Liljestrom’s latest release is completely improvised and was recorded over two short nights. Having listened to the album several times, I find it hard to get my head around this. How on Earth do you gather a group of musicians together and improvise an entire album into such (quietly) stunning existence?

“For this project I just rang up a few friends and a cellist I’d never met before. When we arrived in the studio I described a sort of scene to them that I wanted to create. A certain sort of atmosphere. I wanted really sparse music as opposed to what I was creating in Elk, which was much more lush. So I described a desert scene to them, a desert-scape at night with stars and romantic pining. So it was a matter of really trying to tap into that visual. We didn’t really discuss keys or anything like that. It was very much a matter of someone would start and people would join in, and I would flick through my diaries and what have you to and find some words that I thought would be appropriate for the music.”

Ah. Easy.

The result sounds very much like there were a lot of people on the same wavelength in the Surry Hills studio over those two nights. Liljestrom describes the vibe during the recording sessions and being “magical”, adding that the lights were turned out to heighten the magic and add to the intimacy of the sound. And although the vision was Liljestrom’s, the interpretation was very much a collaborative one with all musicians feeling a sense of trepidation and really having to pay attention to what the others were doing. Liljestrom says that it all came together so well that it felt like there was something bigger than the musicians that was creating the music.

The title of the album is a fine and fitting one, but there is so much emotion in the music that it is much more than simply ‘quiet’ music. I suggest a couple of alternative titles, such as Sad Music For Sad People; Lonely Music For Lonely People; Damaged Music For Damaged People. The singer laughs good naturedly and says that no, these titles hadn’t been considered. “The name came to me quite a while ago and I wasn’t sure what I was going to use it for. It just seemed perfect for this premise. I even told the others that this is called Quiet Music For Quiet People, so it instantly put them into that frame of mind. It’s not necessarily sad, it’s not necessarily damaged. It’s just... quiet.”

So what to expect at the album’s launch on the 19th? Hooked on the edginess of improv, Liljestrom herself isn’t quite sure what to expect. She does, however, see it as being more than just a music gig. “We did another show at a warehouse a few weeks ago and it was packed out. Everyone just kind of laid on the floor, all carried away by the experience. I think it was lovely for them to experience something that was created then and there. I’m hoping it’s going to be the same at the @Newtown.”

The night will not be a rigidly faithful reproduction of the album, but further exploration of unchartered waters, ensuring each future performance is unique. Hmm... Unique Music For Unique People? Certainly it is unique music by a unique artist.

WHO Inga Liljestrom
WHAT The launch of Quiet Music For Quiet People (Vitamin Records)
WHEN & WHERE Sunday 19 November at the @Newtown

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