Niklas Paschburg 'Svalbaard' (DE)
Nearly two years have passed since Niklas Paschburg presented his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Oceanic’ in February 2018. Niklas’ musical ideas have crystalised and become cogent through a combination of extensive live performance-playing over 100 shows in the last two years-and experimentation in his Berlin Studio. Written between2018 and 2019, his second album ‘Svalbard’ will be released in February 2020 via !7K. Niklas’ use of the piano; electronics (synth and computer) and his Grandfather’s piano accordion allow him to communicate via a number of musical traditions and languages. This versatility has allowed him to work on a variety of projects ranging from an inspired reinterpretation of Bach’s Preludes in C Minor (“Blooming”), to well received remixes for pop artists such as RYX and Asgeir.
His second album, ‘Svalbard’ was written in the winter of late 2018 to 2019 on theNorwegian archipelago, far away from his birth place in Hamburg. The islands are isolated and their relatively rapid changing landscapes display immediate and visible effects of climate change. These thoughts weigh heavy in the heart and mind of the 25year-old artist, who’s process was enriched invigorated by the environment which he chose to write in. Niklas was at once ensconced within the dark azure palette of winter-a piano waited for him and he brought Grandfather’s Accordion and a new ElectricHarmonium along with a small number of other instruments. In Svalbard, throughoutDecember and January the temperature never peaks above minus twenty degrees celsius-sunlight hours are numbered at zero. “Sometimes during the day I was opportune to get a peak of blue, but I knew that the daylight wouldn’t come. There’s no sun in Svalbard in the first half of January, there’s no sunrise, there’s no sunset. It’s always night.” Niklas chose this as an “inhospitable and uncomfortable” place to convalesce and write-cocooned away from the darkness of our times.
Once Niklas had finished writing, he took these compositions to Andy Barlow of Lamb(U2, Fink and Willie Nelson). In Brighton they worked together and Andy recorded, produced and mixed ‘Svalbard’ it into its final state. ‘Svalbard’ opens with “If”, a song which articulates the traces which these environments have left in Niklas’ mind-something pressing is present in the music. All these impressions come from a piece of music which is both melancholic and positive, something which can cradles us from anxiety. ‘Svalbard’ balances a turbulent outlook with peaceful embraces. A relationship inspired by the Norwegian archipelago-situated in the Arctic Ocean, a place where climate change -an issue dear to the German composer and his generation- is most evident.
Niklas goes on to explain that “It was after the release of “Oceanic” that I gradually developed a vision of what I wanted to achieve with my second album: with ‘Svalbard’ whilst still working with ambient music, I also explore darker and louder territories”. The island landscape provided inspiration, faced with blue and white arctic light he was compelled to an awareness of his own fragility. The delicateness of his situation was further emphasised when he was caught outside, unaware that a-20°C storm was due to take place. “The previous day the locals had warned each other to stay inside on the following day, but I was alone and missed the warning! Moments before it had been peaceful and silent, and then suddenly there was an almighty wind that was so strong it knocked me over. I couldn’t see anything and I was absolutely petrified, but when I went back to the studio I wrote the second track of ‘Svalbard’, “Cyan””. The thrashing of the storm is present in the rhythm and textures of the piece: it impresses the feeling that one is facing the enduring power of the wind-before being forced to flee.
A fortnight of working closely with Barlow enabled him to draw on a renewed energy that led to the creation of two more tracks in Berlin.The first is “Bathing In Blue”, an electronic piece with an atmosphere inspired by the dusty haze which obscures the city in summer. The second is “Little Orc”, a gem driven by contrasting feelings: nostalgic solemness runs through it and becomes a struggle which is articulated through Niklas’ own breathing which is suspended between tension and escape-underlying the environmental anxiety. Referring to “Orc”, Niklas explains: “In Svalbard there’s a bird called Auk, which I dedicated a song to, but when Andy asked about the title, I made a spelling mistake when writing it down. But I liked it and decided to keep it that way”.
Listening to ‘Svalbard’ one dives into the fascinating world created by the German Artist.Here we are presented with a more mature Niklas Paschburg, aware of his purpose; an artist who has found his voice. Paschburg’s music is unique in its ability to be both melancholic and positive, an embrace to lift anxieties and encourage meditation, whilst also making the listener want to move, dance and run.