Free Falling with Karolinski

There’s a tense quiet, the faint sounds of a synthesiser feeding back on itself, and suddenly; a magnificent wave of sound rolls out of Jæger’s 21 inch Funktion One bass cabinets. An all-consuming focus resolves into big undulating boulders of sound lapping up against bodies pressing closer to the stage. Karolinski (Karoline Hegreness) is making her live debut in Oslo and there are no expectations, but the energy is electric as the soundsystem trembles through the opening bars of her set. In the front there is a dedicated group in Jæger’s basement, they’ve come exclusively to see the budding artist and she has pulled them close to the front, forming a tight but free circle around the stage.

Karolinski has only just released her debut record, an LP called “Abnormal Soundscape”, but already she’s cultivated a keen following in Norway. Although she has been a DJ in the Bergen scene for many years, “Abnormal Soundscape” has been her first foray into production, and it’s clear that there is an inherent understanding of the club environment when she takes to the stage. A track from the album, “Oh Lordy” spills out from the speakers and the warm surging bass washes over the audience while crystalline noise, resonating back onto itself cascades from the upper frequencies.

“You have more things to do on stage… and it’s super intuitive.”

If pressed, “Oh Lordy” is her favourite track from the album she tells me before her set. “I made that in Australia in a beach House last summer”. It’s the “latest track” from the album and Karoline’s gesturing shapes from behind her podium of machines is her enjoyment manifested through movement. “Do you find the live show more exciting that the DJ set” I ask her. ”Of course,” she says eagerly; “You have more things to do on stage… and it’s super intuitive.”

She’s excited for the night ahead and says she will be incorporating some vocals in the preceding set. For this particularly live show at Jæger she has “started bringing in House music and vocals”  to give her audience something a little “different” from the album. The album which has enjoyed a very promising critical reception in Norway only came out in December, but already she’s cultivated a significant following.

Since releasing “Abnormal Soundscape” on her own label  FJORDFJELLOGDALER (FFDR) the requests to perform have started trickling in. Olle Abstract specifically asked for Karolinski when he played in Bergen recently and while she was still preparing for her live set at Jæger she jumped in head first to make her debut as a live artist. “I was already stressing about the one at Jæger which was a month and a half away,” she explains but “it went pretty well.”

She took a lot away from that first gig, and observing her on stage at Jæger it seems like she is well versed at the job at hand. Even when the power abruptly shuts down during her set at Jæger, she handles it like a pro and jumps right back into her set with grace and determination like nothing has happened. Her live set exceeds 130 beats per minute, a severe departure from the “pretty chill set” she played in Bergen only a few weeks back, she tells me. The dub influences on her work, with those deep rolling waves of bass and extended delays, undercuts the tempos of the 4-4 kicks punching their way through the miasmatic textures. Tracks from the album contort into new improvised pieces, pieces that might be the first sketches of  a new track. A vocal dissipates into endless echoes and elements of House and Techno find a common ground in the live setting, including an homage to Crystal Waters at the end of her set.

Karoline is also a skydiver and skydiving instructor, and there’s always been a tactile connection between “flying” and music for the artist. Titles like “I wanna dance in the sky” and the video for her first single “ Basic Frequency” parlay this into a literal correlation, but it all harks back to her childhood. Her parents, skydivers and computer programmers created an environment where electronic music and skydiving became symbiotic experiences. She had Napster when it was still an unknown entity, and she would “download a lot trance” but with specific themes. Titles like “castles in the sky” and “dreaming of flying all the time” she remembers specifically today. Tracks like these and specifically Trance, sparked an early interest in electronic music, but it wasn’t exactly an isolated experience for Karoline. “When I heard the complexity of the synthesiser,” she explains “I connected it with my mum and dad was doing when they were flying.” Both music and skydiving became two very important aspects in her life.

“Naturally I got into electronic music after listening to a lot of  Trance,” she says but through the years the associations with flying have moved from Trance to Dub Techno. “ It’s about the long dub chords, the reverbs, the delay and the space that you can create,” and that’s the parallel she draws between music and skydiving today. “When I fly,” she says, “I just hear a drone” and it doesn’t take much on the listeners part to find these striking parallels too. Through “Abnormal Soundscape” there’s an emphasis on space as simple repetitive phrases repeat on themselves, orbiting around a simple refrain from synthesiser.

Inspired by “early 2000 Echospace, Deepchord and Maurizio,” Karoline started making electronic music in 2013. She set out in search of the fundamentals via YouTube, but found the process “really confusing.” She realised that; “if I really want to learn this I have to go to school.” She enrolled in an Ableton course at Point Blank in London, which applied her with the basic tools to start making music, and a platform for her to hone her eventual sound. “Skydiving was still a really big thing” in her life at that point and she managed to travel the world with it, but she made sure that everywhere she went she could bring her portable studio with her.

“I could finally get my shit together and just focus on being here with the music.”

When she moved back to Norway, she came back with a singular vision: to finish the recorded material, release a record and start a label. She found a makeshift studio on the outskirts of Bergen, and sequestered in her new home, began to compartmentalize what she’d made through her travels. She set herself the task of going through “hundreds of finished projects” in an effort to create a “soundscape” from a “few selected tunes” that would eventually become the album. “When I got home to the studio,” she explains “I could finally get my shit together and just focus on being here with the music.” That was the start of everything for Karoline with everything circling back to the first track on the album, “flight simulator”

“Flight simulator is the first track I ever made,” says Karoline. It was inspired by Tiësto’s “Flight 643” and Karoline’s “favourite game” from where the track takes its name. “I’ve always wanted to use a speech from a flight,” she says about the song’s origins and found a “fucked-up version of the speech” from the game to form the basis of the track, the vocal gliding up and down the looping arrangement. The speech and the subject matter adds a very eerie quality to the track that Karoline found “super strange and surreal,” but at the same time adds something literal to the abstract soundscape she creates through synthesisers.

There’s often this literal quality li to Karolinski’s music, which Karoline doesn’t try to subvert through her tracks titles. “Toget fra Oslo heim til Bergen” for instance was a track created on the train home from Oslo to Bergen exactly as the title suggests but there’s also something tactile about that trip in the music. She looked out of the window during her journey and interpreting the lights flashing past the window as sounds, she found the defining crux of that song.

“Abnormal Soundscape” is the result of some 10 years worth of music distilled into the album in this way with personal experiences defining the sound of the album. Why did it take her so long to release music? “I wasn’t ready,” she says and elaborates; “before, I was still travelling around and make music wherever I was. Now I want to have it as a career.” And what about skydiving? “I really love it and it’s a big passion in my life. But so is music and music is a bigger part of my life at the moment.”

Karoline paved her own way to success, establishing her own label, and even though she had the entire Bergen scene at her disposal, she feels that her experience with music was a “super  isolated” one. She had known the “music dudes” in Bergen all her life through Djing and specifically mentions Christian Tilt as an abettance, but when it comes to her music and the label she “really wanted to understand” the intricacies of running her own label and being an independent artist. FJORDFJELLOGDALER had to be her “own platform” and Karoline “was never interested” in working with other labels.

In the future she hopes the label will become a similar platform for other artists and if offered, she might start working with other labels too. Meanwhile she’s got a “couple of EPs with both House music and more trancy stuff” on the way and some more Techno in pipeline. With more gigs starting to line up, she’ll be developing her live show concurrently as a very comprehensive package. Our conversation dwindles down as soundcheck is prioritised, but before we part ways until later the evening, and she heads off to the stage, I ask her what her set might be like. “The one tonight”, she says… “is not going to  be chill.”