Julia Svensson aka Aircode is a Swedish producer based in London. She started releasing music four years ago and with last year's debut album Grounded, mastered by Harry Murdoch, she affirmed her sense of sound design and perception of contemporary electronica. Her work takes inspiration from dubstep and club music, which she bends, crumbles and combines with disguised vocals, piano and other kinds of samples.
Using snippets from other recordings, she creates complex compositions full of alienating mystery and tension. That tension is actually in the title of her current album, which was released at the end of September on the Czech label Gin&Platonic.
Surface Tension is an album that excels in its dynamics, at times moving almost inaudibly, at others nervously throbbing and together creating a specific atmosphere of unease. We introduce her new album in an interview with Svensson and discuss her work, the music video capturing the mood of the album, her plans for the future and the complicated marriage of the creative process and her full-time job.
In an interview you did for AQNB last year you talked about the difficulties of combining a full-time job with making music. How has the situation evolved since then? Did you manage to balance it out or is that a never-ending battle?
Still struggling, but it’s just part of life (especially when you live in a large, fast-paced, expensive and struggling city). I wouldn't say It’s evolved much and I’m fighting myself to find a balance, mainly mentally. Making music is difficult when I’m not in the right headspace but sadly locking myself away to just focus on creation isn’t an alternative. This is something I’m sure most people struggle with but you rarely hear it spoken about in. Maybe it takes away from the romanticism of music when you talk about spending most of your hours in an uninspired (unless you actually have a job you like) space. It's hard to know where the line between mindset and actual justified strain lies.
Can you share a bit about your creative approach to Surface Tension? What sparked the work on it? Was it a sound you “found” and decided to expand on or rather an idea/feeling that you had and then searched for a way to express it?
It came to me as I went along and developed into a mixture of really scaled-back pieces and really intense pieces. This record ended up playing a lot with those dynamics in different tracks. I wanted maximalism and minimalism to hang out with each other in the same space. The whole album exists on a border of feelings felt during the making of it and keeps shifting back and forth between chaotic detail and calm detail. It (and most of my music) sits on the border between apathy and restlessness.
I had listened to and enjoyed releases from them for some time, and then I got invited to go to Ostrava and play a gig there in the amazing Plato space. They are just such nice people and I had a great experience playing there and when they suggested a release it felt right! Also nice to get out of the UK scene a bit and I really appreciate the work labels such as G&P put in outside of the big metropoles. I tend to sit on stuff for a long time and wait til it’s the right time for someone to pick it up. It’s hard and kinda embarrassing to email labels (I think for myself - good on you if you’re brave enough to do it) you don’t have any working relationship with already so it’s nice to do it with people you actually like!
I was blown away by the video Federico Barni directed for the tile track - both the idea and the cinematography clicked with the mysterious tension of the track. Could you describe the process of making it?
Fed is a good friend of mine and he also made the music video for my track Spores. It was always in the works that he would make another video for me. I asked him, expecting a scaled-back simple production but he had bigger ideas, wanting to make a short film to one of the longer tracks on the record. Of course, I was into the idea and he sent me a deck (the first time I’ve heard of or seen a script deck). Everything happened very quickly & Fed is very professional. We are lucky to have friends who specialize in all different kinds of fields making finding a producer, set designer, stylist and colorist etc relatively easy and making it a fun project between friends. Everyone put a lot of their time and effort into the video and I'm forever grateful for this. It was so fun to see how a video is made and I’m so happy with the result.
Do you continually work on new music or does it come in waves for you? What are your plans for the coming months and years if you plan that far ahead?
I never used to struggle with creative blocks for a long time, but recently it has hit a bit harder. This is not to say I’m not making music, but rather I have to fight a bit harder to make stuff I actually like, it used to come very naturally. I still have tons of music ready to go, which I always do at any point, but I like to show a little bit of restraint with it. I will see where it takes me. I have a piano & guitar double ep which I want to do something with but I’m just waiting to figure out how to go about that one. Got a couple of gigs in the making and then in the new year I’ll look at what I have and where I want to go with it.