For the past several years musicians Jonas Munk and Nicklas Sørensen have had a productive collaboration going. Munk, who is co-runner of record label El Paraiso Records(as well as playing guitar in Causa Sui and releasing electronic music under the Manual moniker and under his own name), produced Sørensen’s first two solo LPs(titled Solo 1 and Solo 2 respectively.) Sørensen is also the guitarist in the three-piece powerhouse Papir(Munk produced a good portion of Papir’s records as well.) These collaborations over the years proved that Munk and Sørensen worked well together. They seemed to be on the same creative wavelength, and pulling influence and inspiration from similar places(Berlin School, American minimalist composers, and Krautrock to name a few.)
A full-on collaborative LP seemed like the next logical step.
Over the course of coffee-fueled morning jam sessions, afternoon dinners with lagers, and then back to the studio for more improvisations between guitar and synth till the evening the duo created the heady and dense Always Already Here. Guitar and synth building patterns that create a maze-like effect, drawing the listener in and letting them explore and discover different ways in and out with each listen. It’s truly a special listening experience.
I reached out to Jonas and Nicklas to see if they’d be interested in talking about the record and they were happy to talk about the process behind Always Already Here.
J. Hubner: ‘Always Already Here’ is an amazing album. Going into writing and recording for the record who or what were some sonic hallmarks you two used as a foundation for this record?
Jonas Munk: Thank you! I think it turned our very well. This album builds on my two solo records on El Paraiso (Pan and Absorb/Fabric/Cascade) as well as on Nicklas Sørensen’s two solo records (Solo 1 and 2). There’s quite a wide range of influences on those records, but for this collbaboration I think we both were pretty focused on exploring what you might call American classical minimalism and pattern music more deeply than on previous albums. I also knew I’d be bringing some modern sounds to the table and venture into sonic territory perhaps more closely associated with current experimental electronic music. We certainly didn’t intend to take the time machine back to the 1970s, although we’re building on styles that were developed back then.
Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah, when it comes to the sound,I think it sounds pretty much like a mix between Jonas’ and my solo records, which is of course not surprising at all since Jonas has been responsible for the mix on all of it and working in details with every bit of sound. The more academic concepts of American minimalism and pairing it with different kinds of loosely psychedelic references was obviously an important part of the foundation for this project.
J. Hubner: How do you two approach working together? What was the process like when recording ‘Always Already Here’? Is morning or evening your more creative time?
Jonas Munk: Usually Nicklas arrives with the morning train from Copenhagen around 9:00. We brew a pot of coffee or some good Japanese sencha while the preamp tubes and synthesizers are warming up, and we work for six or seven hours, go out for some nice food and a beer or two, and work for three or four hours again in the evening. We try not to overthink everything and just get stuff done rather quickly, since there’s usually several weeks between these sessions. We almost always complete one track in a full days work(mixing excluded), and that’s simply not possible if you wanna try out three different synthesizers for each part before deciding on which works better, and stuff like that. For a project like this I think it’s more important to get a good flow going and make some quick decisions along the way.
Nicklas Sørensen: That sums it up. What I like about this process of creating is to get into a continuous flow of experimenting with a lot of different sounds without losing touch with the focus of the overall compositions and forms. It’s a pretty rewarding process in itself.
J. Hubner: This record feels very mathematical. Not in a stuffy, analytical way. But more like these songs were formulas and theorems being solved. Repetition and looping lines that become almost hypnotic. What was the editing process like once you had these jams recorded? Was there a lot of pulling pieces out and sticking them elsewhere? Or was it a very organic process?
Jonas Munk: There wasn’t a lot of editing afterwards, although mixing always takes some time. We try to get the basic structure figured out rather quickly, and for three out of the five tracks on the album we recorded some basic tracks live – Nicklas on guitar, me fiddling around with synth sequences – which gave those tracks a very natural feel, even though lots of stuff was added later. In ”Shift” there was a little bit of rearranging, like ”let’s copy that pattern and put it at the end with a filter on it”, and so on. You can go nuts with that stuff and explore possibilities endlessly, but we wanted to maintain a very organic feel and stick to the dynamics of the initial recordings. Some of the compositions are pretty complex though, especiallly from a rhytmic perspective, and it was a challenge building these multi-layered structures without creating a sonic mess of everything. I don’t think I would have been able to pull it off five years ago.
J. Hubner: How does a project like ‘Always Already Here’ differ from ‘Solo 2′? Nicolas’ last solo LP felt like a very collaborative record between you two.
Nicklas Sørensen: The recordings processes are very much alike. But for this record I think we were probably more focused on finding common ground in the conversations we had before we even started recording anything. I also think the amounts of synths and guitars are more equally balanced on this one, whereas my solo records tends to favour a very clear theme-based lead guitar as a guideline through most of the songs.
Jonas Munk: Some of the tracks on Solo 1 and Solo 2 were very much collaborations indeed. When we’d done “2.5′
“(from Solo 2) I knew we’d have to do an album’s worth of material in that direction at some point.
J. Hubner: If you could name one album someone should immediately go out and locate once they dig into ‘Always Already Here’ and are blow away, what would that be?
Jonas Munk: Steve Reich’s Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ.
Nicklas Sørensen: Ashra’s New Age of Earth.
J. Hubner: What else would you two like to explore musically? Or is that something you can’t answer until you’re in the thick of recording and seeing where the vibes are heading?
Jonas Munk: Right now this album feels very much like a conclusion to the solo albums that came before it. Besides, I think it would be very hard to top this one – at least if we were to do something in a similar direction.
Nicklas Sørensen: I agree. It would probably make sense to make something completely different next time.