Klangstof – Ocean View
In the aftermath of recording their (still officially unannounced) third full-length album, Amsterdam alternative formation Klangstof (Koen van de Wardt, Wannes Salomé, and Erik Buschmann)weathered an inspiring but emotionally-taxing storm, recording their most open-hearted, sonically ambitious material yet. With the waters once again tranquil and the horizon in plain sight, the band suddenly found themselves a modest window to work on another project. This became Ocean View EP, a four-song release that offers an exciting, candid glimpse of the band’s current wavelength.
“In 2020, the tour for our second album fell apart after just five shows, when the pandemic hit,” band founder Koen van de Wardt explains. “We didn’t want to go through that again with our third record, so we had to come up with something new, because people have been waiting for new music.” Hence the new EP, which offers the band both the incentive and the challenge to experiment further and work within a tighter schedule, penning the songs in two months and recording them in a span of five days with producer Thijs van der Klugt (of electronic pop outfit Baskerville).
Van de Wardt adds: “Since we hadn’t been able to play live together for a while, we felt the need to record these tracks sitting in a room together, playing the songs from start to finish as a group. Most of the tracks have been recorded in just one or a few takes. The whole process was very refreshing, the energy in the room was incredible. We honestly think we’ve never sounded as much as a band as on this recording.”
The EP’s lead single “Ocean View” was materialized from an older recording Van de Wardt and Salomé made in Los Angeles with the working title “We Tried, They Failed”. The latter title was an inside joke from a writing session that ended in a cul de sac. Curiously, the reworked version of that recording morphed into “Ocean View”; a song that actually holds the opposite message, according to Van de Wardt. “That trapped feeling we had in LA is now completely gone. ‘Ocean View’ is like an open world, a mirror of ultimate freedom, essentially telling the same story with the opposite meaning.” Salomé: “Where the verses used to be cynical they are now sincere.”
With a lot of musical and psychological kinks ironed out, Klangstof leaned heavily in the ad hoc joy of boundless experimentation. They embraced the possibilities without being tethered to the big stakes of an album or live performance. “Fool’s Rage” gained its languid, intoxicated vibe by recording the music sped up and then slowing it back to its original tempo. Imperfections and limitations often became a starting point for the arrangements: “Silver Cloud”, for instance, used a haphazard guitar take by Salomé as its main thread. Having to work quickly only reinforced the contagious euphoria of ‘why the fuck not?’ all the more.
For the first time since Klangstof existed, the hurdles that stifled their creative powers have been cleared. Ocean View EP sees them relaxing for the first time, allowing the music to finally open emotionally and sonically. The cinematic slow-burner “A Comforting Release” signifies this positive coming-to-terms. “I have always struggled with opening up to people,” Van de Wardt comments, “afraid that I will fall apart when it’s out there. But during the pandemic I’ve realised how to confront some of those demons by just talking about it. I’m done with finding comfort in being someone that I’m not and this song expresses that journey so far.”
Sam Petts-Davies (Radiohead, Frank Ocean) did the mixing for Ocean View EP, while mastering was done by producer Heba Kadry (Björk, Slowdive, Big Thief).
Something that we really cherish about this track is its simplicity. We sometimes tend to hide ourselves behind complicated chords and weird sounds, and the opener of the EP is really us trying to break out of that cycle. “I remember closing my eyes while recording this and just feeling the music come to me like beautiful waves of noise. That feeling is what inspired the lyrics of the song as well.” It’s this beautiful meditative moment you can have when you stand in a room and play together.
Fool’s Rage was a really fun one to record. We spent half a day tracking different takes, but it just didn’t feel right. We wanted to create this really sloppy band sound, but we just couldn’t manage. After spending an hour listening to the recordings, Thijs van der Klugt (Engineer/Producer) came up with the idea to record the song at a faster speed and slow it down afterwards. We basically had to rewrite all the different parts in order to be able to play it fast and it sounded pretty weird while doing it, but when we walked back to the control room and heard the song slowed down, the sound was just right.
We made the demo for Silver Cloud while we were still on the road in early 2020. The song just had a lot of gliding wavetable synthesizers with heavy distortion and a simple kick/snare drum pattern. It was one of those little demos that would probably be too weird to make it on to a record. “It ended up on our private Soundcloud playlist and I remember Wannes being really excited about it. Since the concept of the EP was to record all tracks with all of us playing it at the same time, we thought it was a fun challenge to see if we could make this thing work.” After a few days working on it we were all really afraid that we accidentally turned into a cheesy rock-song, so we ended up using an insane auto-tune pedal to mess up the vocals after we recorded it. Also Wannes played the guitar solos on this song instead of Koen, since his lack of guitar-playing skills added something really nice and fun.
A COMFORTING RELEASE
We wanted to end the EP with a bang. See if we could combine all the vibes we picked up on this EP into one closing piece. As production nerds, we love to add lots of interesting textures to our tracks. “Growing up I always got very emotional from those songs that started very gently, and ended with a huge wall of sound. Those tracks that bring out the whole emotional spectrum in five minutes like a short movie that plays in your head. The lyrics are very special to me. I have always struggled with opening up to people, afraid that I will fall apart when it’s out there. But during the pandemic I’ve realised how to confront some of those demons by just talking about it. I’m done with finding comfort in being someone that I’m not and this song expresses that journey so far.”