Beguiling melodies bouncing through octaves in jolly leaps, play between the deep, rolling waves of bass as Tarjei Nygård’s latest EP, “Lost in Lindos” completes the first bars of “Bleausa.” Elegant keys stroking at chords in ascending melodic themes are bookended between the downtempo rhythm section and the tropical atmosphere enveloping the opening track. That track is “from 2014” says Tarjei over an impromptu telephone call on a Friday afternoon. Lost in Lindos “started with that track” when he sent Andrew Hogge from ESP institute an unsolicited email, which prompted the response from the label head: “I want to put this track out, do you have any other tracks?”
You’ve had a pretty reserved output since putting out your first EP on Prins Thomas’ Full Pupp label.
“I don’t just put out stuff to put out stuff. I’m more interested in making tracks and haven’t spent that much time in pushing the music out.”
So what brought this EP to ESP institute?
“It just started with, I’m going to send him an email.”
Tarjei is on the phone from the Kunsthall in Stranvanger, where is currently occupied in his day job as an events producer. His position puts him “in charge of events, setting up exhibitions” and “programming music concepts.” It’s a favourable position for anybody with an invested interest in music like his, and something of a dream position for the artist from Notodden. “That’s always been what I wanted,” he explains and it clarifies the reserved output to some degree; with no need to constantly distribute, he can focus on only getting the best of the music he’s made into the world.
Do you think your sound has evolved a lot since your first record, Katapult to Lost Lindos?
“It’s difficult to say because you can’t really get a bird’s eye view on your own music, but it is always an organic approach.”
“Katapult had been sitting for a while, before it got into (Prins) Thomas’ hands” and onto the Full Pupp label and before Tarjei had started negotiating his way through the organic sounds he perpetuates through all his records as a solo artist he had dabbled in all kinds of other music. Growing up in rural Notodden, there wasn’t really any scene to talk of, but it was “very musical city” in Tarjei’s opinion nonetheless.
Tarjei had grown up in a very musical home. His father, an ordained minister has always been a “music lover” with “a huge collection of jazz and classical music” and he plied Tarjei’s formative years and musical education with a combination of these records and the “cheesy” Norwegian gospel music from the congregation. At home his father also played the piano, and although Tarjei admits that music had always been “very important” in his home, he was never lured over to the piano or any other instrument for that matter and considers himself a “self-taught musician” today. He had a vested interest in music as a committed listener however and started “exploring new music” as soon as he became conscious of it. When he was old enough, he “got a job at a local record store and started digging from the get go.” It wouldn’t be long before Djing and producing enticed the young Nygård out from the counter and into the booth.
How did you arrive at making music?
“ I got a hold of a couple of technics turntables and then it all just fell into place.”
And Djing came first?
“Yeah but it all kind of happened at the same time because then I discovered this program called Reason. I got a bootleg CD from a friend that met a guy in the military.”
The clandestine exchange through the army barracks, had set Tarjei on a path as an artist. He had found an immediate affinity with the music software and “started making music on the computer” almost intuitively. He “understood Reason quite fast” and utilised it to his designs in making mostly sample-based music in the beginning.
Tarjei approached DJing with everything from “funk, hiphop breaks and house music” coming into his purview. “I’ve never been thinking very genre-wise about the approach,” he explains. “it’s always been; ‘ah I like that song, I’m going to play that song.’”
How does this relate to what you do as a producer?
“I get inspired by the music I buy to play out. The music I produce is what goes through the system. I have certain sounds that I like, and it kind of all funnels through.“
What music were you making before you made your first record?
“I was producing hip-hop beats for rappers and I played in a band.”
What was the name of the band?
“Ah, I don’t really want to go down that road”… (laughs)
Tarjei admits “it took a long time” before he arrived at Katapult and the record had been sitting for some time before Prins Thomas heard it. But after sending the originals in their demo form and getting the OK from the Full Pupp boss, he quickly sent along the record in its completed form without much hesitation from Thomas who put them out immediately via his label. A couple of singles followed for Maksimal records and Full Pupp respectively in the consecutive year, and then there was a three year hiatus before Tarjei came back with “Bleausa” the first track on the latest EP and the promo single that preceded the eventual release of “Lost in Lindos” in 2019.
All the tracks were made in the studio except for “Øylie” which he made on in an impromptu musical cabin retreat with his friend Are Foss. “My good friend Are Foss should be mentioned” stresses Tarjei in a hurried voice, “because he was vital to ‘Øylie’ and to the record in a way.”
“Øylie” is a completely immersive ambient track. Are Foss strumming through the echoes of his guitar in one take, creates a languid movement, with minor modulations as the repetitions coaxed from an echo machine creates its own surprising patterns against a backdrop of sterile keys and biotic atmospheres. Swathed in pads and feedback cascading through the main riff like light through a forest canopy, Tarjei and Are create a sublime, tranquil piece that plays beautifully against the knowledge of the setting of the recording.
The original “idea was to put a concert together for the birds,” says Tarjei through whatI surmise is a smile. Originally, there had been some intention to make club music, but it had been “impossible because the environment actually has a lot to say, surprisingly.” They drove all their equipment down to Are’s secluded cabin on a “sketchy “four-wheeler motorcycle and set up a makeshift studio in the cabin. Completely secluded, they could “play as loud” as they wanted and from that single riff, whittled down to a single chord and an echo, “Øylie” came to life and completed the “Lost in Lindos” EP.
What’s next for you after this record?
“I’m actually working on an EP with tracks made from that cabin session. We went back there this winter and this time we took all the instruments on a scooter. “(laughs)
Will it feature that same organic sound of Øylie?
“Yes, when I work with Are it goes that way.”
Tarjei has no intentions of reaching out to a label for that one just yet, and is still just in the process of finishing those pieces. There is no immediate rush, and Tarjei will maintain that same organic approach to making music that has made his records such prominent and significant contribution to the Norwegian electronic and DJ music scene.
Whatever he puts out, if he does indeed feel the need to put something out, will undeniably be yet another considered record that will make a unique impression, like every record before it and “Lost in Lindos” did this year. When I look down at the clock, I’ve run over our allocated time, but Tarjei is amenable and waves off the delay with a guffaw. I start to hang up, but then remember something…
O, but wait we have to plug the upcoming night with Hubbas Klubb at Jaeger. Have you started preparing your record bag?
“I haven’t started collecting records for that night, but I always like fun and quirky House records.”
And considering it’s the day after 17th May, will that influence your selections on the night?
“O, I guess I have to find the perfect champagne hungover music.” (laughs)