Grooves entrenched in the deep recesses of dance floor archetypes; sonic landscapes thriving in the stark progressions of minimalism; and visceral arrangements touching on some deep emotive charge, this is the sound of Sous-Vide, the newest addition to the Norwegian clubbing landscape. The club concept and label with mighty aspirations in club culture, from festivals to community outreach efforts was launched last month with an event at Jaeger featuring Thomas Skjærstad, Dolbah, Pål Thomas and Matiago.
At the centre of this new concept is Thomas Skjærstad, a DJ and producer that is no stranger to Jaeger’s booth, making waves across Norway and Europe with his singular sound as a DJ. It’s a sound that he and Dolbah have developed in the concept of Sous-Vide and which will soon make its mark on the recorded format with the first release scheduled for this month. With tendrils stretching from Norway to Europe and South-East Asia, Sous-Vide is Norwegian based label, with international appeal, catching the ear of Mixmag amongst others ahead of its first release.
It comes as a silver lining on a dark cloud currently casting long shadows over club- and DJ culture’s future. At a time when there’s great uncertainty over the sustainability of club culture in the age of the pandemic, there’s some hope in the continued creative efforts of a new concept like Sous-Vide. How will this situation affect the label, and why use this time to start a new label? These were some of the questions on our mind, when we heard Sous-Vide were returning to Jaeger this month so we reached out to Thomas Skjærstad to ask for a formal introduction ahead of tomorrow’s event with an exclusive stream of their last session at Jaeger.
Hello Thomas and co. Perhaps we can start with introductions. What is Sous-Vide and who are the key players behind the label?
Hello Jaeger! Sous-Vide Records is a small Norwegian vinyl & self releasing record label focused on the grooves of minimalism. I started this idea 3 years ago, but never got further than the planning phase because I didn’t have the right people to move forward with. The idea has been laying dormant for a while, but the spark came back about a year ago when I teamed up with Knut Kvien (Dolbah). After giving an elevator pitch of my idea during a car ride up to my studio, Knut was basically all in right from the start. We quickly realized that we share the same philosophy when it came to music and sound.
From this point on I started developing the business plans, SWOT analysis, presentations, website prototypes and vinyl design mockups. Meanwhile, Knut was locked up in the studio producing track ideas like a madman and finding the right partner for vinyl pressing and distribution.
After we had the plan down on paper it became clear to me that we had to bring in more resources in order to reach our goals. An important part of the launch process involves creating a series of events both in open-air and club settings, and perhaps even a small festival further down the road. This is when I brought in a passionate minimal soul and a good friend of mine from Molde: Pål Thomas. I met him through playing at a festival he organized, Hjertøya, so he was a natural choice with his experience from event infrastructure and organizing.
I have a background as digital product developer and art director, so you could say I have a clear vision of how I want to build the SVR aesthetic. For me to be able to focus on managing the label and visual profile, I knew that I needed to bring in another resource to handle everyday tasks and social media. Hello, Mathias! Even though we’ve only known each other for about a year and a half we have already worked together on many different projects and organized several sold-out events in Oslo. Mathias has been an essential person for me to be able to get the heavy lifting done and he didn’t hesitate for a second to jump in with this project either.
Today our little imprint consists of 4 hard-working and passionate souls who share the same vision. We are working continuously on building a sustainable platform piece by piece, connecting with good people along the way while sharing our story with the world.
You take your name from a French cooking tradition. How does that tie into music for you and why choose that as the name of your label?
Great question! There’s actually a lot of thought behind the name and its connection to music. Sous-Vide was innovated back in the 18th century which kind of revolutionized the world of cooking. It dramatically increased the control over temperature and pressure by vacuum sealing the food, allowing for higher precision than had ever been possible before. This enabled uncompromising chefs to consistently deliver the same, delicious taste with every single dish. For this reason it appeals to those who truly love their craft – and this aligns perfectly with my philosophy when it comes to music and the imprint.
Where do your inspirations lie, both musical and beyond for Sous-Vide?
About a year ago I felt quite conflicted when it came to my music, kind of dragged between different directions not having a clue of which path to take on. After releasing the Grønland EP with Granbar which made it to 1st place in Beatport releases, I felt like I had to keep producing Progressive House and Techno tracks. The crazy thing about it all is that I didn’t really feel like home in the genre and at some point after playing Techno every gig for about 3 years I started to feel a bit stressed and unbalanced on the inside.
In January this year my girlfriend and I decided to visit Epizode festival in Vietnam, and that turned out to be the tipping point for me. Being down there on the festival grounds made me feel something I had been missing for a while both musically and personally; a sense of peace and balance, family, and unity. When talking about inspiration don’t even get me started on the music some of these guys were playing… Like seeing Aesel Weiss and Tal Cohen all the way from The Block Club in Tel Aviv seducing the crowd at 9AM at the Egg Stage – that set was like musical education to me. Absolutely mind blowing and I just had to make Asael part of our SVR family.When music becomes more sophisticated and with unexpected elements, it requires more focus from the listener to fully understand and enjoy the music to its fullest potential. To me this translates into an interesting listening experience that can go on and on without becoming boring.
Much of my driveforce and inspiration also lies in connecting like minded humble souls in a small, tight-knit family where we can create a space for sharing ideas, knowledge and inspiration between us.
You launched the label at Jaeger last month with the debut release still in the works. What encouraged you to start the label and what should we expect from that first release, when it does arrive?
The soft launch at Jaeger last month was important to us as it gave us a chance to present our sonic image and some of our upcoming releases. It was a great night that we enjoyed with support from good friends in the scene. We’ve been keeping busy since then, so the whole release schedule for 2020 and through Q2 2021 is actually complete already. Exciting times!
Basically, the Sous-Vide Records catalogue will consist of two branches in the future; SVR and SVRSR where SVR contains the physical format and vinyl releases, and SVRSR will be our digital self-releasing branch. Our first release is a beautiful 4 track EP by the talented artist Mica (UK) who’s currently stationed in Manila in the Philippines. We feel that Mica really fits well with our vision for the first release as it both challenges our sound and the listener in several ways. You can expect elements of break beats and fresh house cuts with a dash of surprise baked into lush and harmonic soundscapes. The EP will be available on our Bandcamp page this month. This first release will be followed up by the prominent Thailand-based producer DOTT who is currently establishing a physical record store in the heart of Bangkok City.
Now, our first vinyl release is going to be something special. This 4-track EP is a real masterpiece by the Israel based producer Asael Weiss containing 3 solo tracks and a remix from the Romanian wizard RQZ. Over the past 5 years, Asael has been holding the badge as resident for The Block Club in Tel Aviv, which is counted as a musical institution that is delivering some of the best sound in the world. The vinyl will arrive in October or November and will be an important milestone for us as we put a lot of money, time and effort into making this happen. Our goal is that each individual vinyl will represent a story and to be looked upon as a timeless piece of art both visually and musically.
Further on we have a 3 track vinyl from Marwan Sabb known from Dubfire ́s label SciTech which over the past years made appearances at events such as Time Warp and Cercle. Marwan will be accompanied by a remix from our own lads Thomas & Dolbah. Following up in high tempo, RQZ will deliver his own solo record and as for the 4th release Thomas & Dolbah will deliver 3 tracks + a remixer that is secret for now.
Is there a sonic philosophy to Sous Vide and how will it inform the artists and the music on the label?
There absolutely is a clear sonic philosophy behind the music we are curating and creating. To me it’s important to maintain a clear and consistent musical identity but at the same time a label should have some color to it as well. To translate our sonic signature to releasing artists is key to avoiding mistakes and ending up with tracks that are not suitable for the label in the end. A situation like that would be challenging and frustrating both for the artist and label.
The coming six months will help us set the foundation for our sonic identity where each artist and release will represent its own outer point on the sonic spectrum. The ultimate goal would be that people would start recognizing unreleased tracks and say “Oh this must be an SVR release” ;)
It’s a very precarious time to be launching a label, as clubs are still not able to operate under normal conditions and fewer DJ gigs. So why launch a label of this nature now, and how do you think the situation will affect the nature of the label going forward?
For us the current situation has actually been a positive driving force in establishing our imprint. Once upon a time a wise man told me It’s in times of turmoil that people with a fine idea make it good. To be frank we have been given more time to evaluate and consider everything from strategy, marketing and promo down to searching for the artists and talents we believe will contribute to shaping the future of SVR.
Building on this, the lockdown situation has pushed large parts of our audience into a position of listening rather than one of partying. For us, this is actually ok as our music is best enjoyed with a degree of focus and attention to detail. Now that many clubs are open but with dancing restrictions, we feel our sonic image suits well with peacefully moving hips enjoying a cold brew in Jaeger’s back yard.
Your next event at Jaeger will be your third in a month and all this before the first record. What is the significance of the club concept alongside the label?
Well, there’s a couple of aspects to it actually. We want to help undiscovered minimal artists in Norway to grow and find their footing, while also showcasing our in-house productions and upcoming releases. The order of things is intentional – we’re basically trying to express and help people understand our sonic signature before the first release lands.
If we look at the bigger picture, there isn’t really a established minimal scene to speak of in Norway and we see it as our mission to help spread the music that we love across the country, while contributing to a healthy growth in the community.
Will the club events be about testing what works for the floor or providing a platform for the artists and the releases that will make up the Sous-Vide catalogue?
More of the latter, I think. We are all feeling confident about our sound and what direction our music should go in, so it’s more about creating a fundament and stage for our artists to grow from. It’s also a part of attracting people to our sound and building a community piece by piece.
The set we’re streaming today was taken from the first event. How do you approach a genre like Techno in the current situation, and in what way did you have to adapt the music to make it work?
These questions can be a little tricky since it all comes down to our subjective relationship with the term “techno”. To me it’s not a great description of our music and carries with it a more intense, pounding sound. Our music is strictly groove-based minimal that is focusing more on the elegant side of electronic dance music. Given that what we play is naturally a bit muted and less intense, I think we haven’t really had to adapt much at all. In any case way less than someone playing what I think of as techno, in a setting where people can’t get their steam out on the dance floor.
Is this something that proved to give Sous-Vide and advantage compared to a more traditional approach to the genre in this situation?
I don’t know if we could call it an advantage given the current situation, but we believe our audience is naturally more in the zone to pay attention to the music and not necessarily the party going on around them.
Dolbah, Matiago and Pål Thomas joined you the last time at Jaeger. What do these DJs represent for you that’s ingrained in the approach of the label?
Well, the four of us actually make up the SVR administration right now. Each person holds a key role in the label and are also part owners.
Keeping in mind the last part of your question, one of my key goals is for SVR to work as a platform for our artists to grow from. Take Matiago and Pål Thomas for example: they are young, up-and-coming artists in the Norwegian scene, and through the imprint they get opportunities to play on good stages with an interested crowd. Seeing moments like these guys’ first gig in the Jaeger backyard is priceless and motivates me to keep working with music.
It’s a real and passionate journey we have started that I’m super excited to see where it goes.
Are the DJ’s relevant to the label, or is there a definite distinction between the DJs that you book for an event, and the artists that you’ll put out on the label?
There is no definite distinction between the DJs and the artists as we will book releasing artists to our events and compliment the lineup with our in-house residents. Some of us like myself & Dolbah will also deliver productions to the label as well as playing gigs. We think all artists booked to an SVR event are relevant to the label because they curate our sonic image.
Have you finalised the lineup for the next event, and what should people expect for this one?
Yes I have! We are bringing the two minimal lads Rado and Yordan Kirilov from Trondheim to extend the sound in the sauna together with our residents. These guys for sure know how to keep the groove rolling so expect sexy minimal house cuts and a lot of unreleased SVR tracks.
We look forward to having you back. Anything you’d like to add before we see you in the sauna?
I’m really looking forward for our next Sauna adventure as well. Actually, there is one more important thing I want to share with you:
As you know, our name means “under vacuum”. We want to give back to our local community, and we see it as our mission to help people who might feel like they’re stuck in a vacuum. Walking through the streets of Oslo there are many people who could use a helpful hand, and even the smallest of gestures can make a difference in someone’s life. For example, we plan to contribute by designating part of the proceeds from our overall sales towards providing warm clothes to those who are facing a cold and unforgiving winter here in Oslo. This means all people buying an SVR release will directly contribute to help our friends on the streets.