Focus on Ludvig Cimbrelius

…and yes, I was looking forward to getting some answers from Ludvig Cimbrelius. The Swedish artist came to my attention a few years ago, first under his project name Purl. Some time later I discovered a whole network of projects and productions that all trace back to him. Cimbrelius has released an incredible number of albums in the last decade. Connections to labels like A Strangely Isolated Place, Silent Season, Archives or Hypnus are only added here as a cross connection.

J: Could you describe the musical path you took some years ago and what has been the trigger for this way?

L: I feel like I am on multiple paths simultaneously with all the different ideas for music that come to me. But what comes clearly to mind from your question is a decision to focus on developing my voice. For me, music is something that is truly alive and ever changing, and for years I have been in search of a way to express musically live, with a balance between stability and allowance for authentic expression in the moment. Thinking back, my first live shows were as a drummer, and I remember being able to find that balance then – maintaining a steady rhythm while still being able to improvise continuously. I was playing with several different bands from a young age, in styles ranging from jazz to hard-rock and metal. I really miss playing drums. They allowed me to express the sometimes overwhelming waves of emotion through the whole body. I would sometimes play until my fingers were bleeding and I couldn’t lift my arms anymore – it was a catharsis for me. Contrast that with standing hunched over a laptop and some plastic keys and knobs… Even though the emotion is as intense, that framework of expression never felt responsive enough for me, and I have so often been missing the bodily involvement both in production and in live music situations. However, my voice has also been present in my music from the beginning; I would for example sample myself beatboxing and making different strange sounds with my mouth and then constructing beats from those (on Purl’s debut album Cosimo di Rondò for example).

Later on I began singing more, but of course I would be too embarrassed to leave the sound of my naked voice, so I would completely drown it in FX. Many of my early ambient works as Purl is me singing through a vocoder and employing endless reverbs, and then layering that with electric guitar. Over the years I started to understand that the human voice is not something that just happens in the throat and mouth, but it is a full body experience – even the soles of the feet are actually involved in singing! – as well as a direct pathway to one’s inner world. Every single emotion leaves a trace on the voice – physiologically there is a direct connection via the nervous system, so the voice will reveal our emotional state even when we try to hide it (like when being nervous to give a talk in front of a group of people for example). Perhaps the most magical thing is that the whole body becomes a resonance chamber for those tiny strings vibrating with emotion in the throat, and this is one of the reasons why everyone’s voice is totally unique. There are not two bodies shaped the exact same way, so every voice has a unique resonance to it. So, a few years ago I decided that I wanted to develop my technique and grow more comfortable with singing, and even seeing myself in the future letting my voice be the main instrument, as a way back to feeling the direct bodily connection between the inner (emotion) and outer (sound).

J: You have an incredible output, countless albums, different aliases… What’s your secret of being so creative?

L: I actually don’t feel particularly creative or productive – I’m most aware of all the projects I have not finished yet, which I guess is logical in some way… looking forward instead of backward. But I believe it is our natural state to create. Our very being is creative in nature, and I mean that on every level, from the cells in our bodies to the consciousness of a human looking for a way to express some subtle state of mind in their art. Looking at it like that, for me it’s more a question of understanding in what ways I sometimes (quite often) block the creative flow, and when I stop doing that I find that ideas on how to move forward with whatever I’m working on are already there, as if they are waiting to be found. I believe that, similar to an iceberg, the majority of every creative process takes place “underneath the surface”, and what happens when we actually focus on our craft is more about receiving the inspiration that our unique life has gathered. And perhaps our most difficult and painful moments can be seen as the most creative, in the sense that we at that point have a strong desire for change, and this is the fundamental incentive to create: the desire to crystallize, give form to, externalize some inner vision which is not yet real in our outer world… something different from what is. Whether that is a work of art or a different life situation, to me it is the same creative force behind it. In my case, it seems that the inspiration to create music is often coming from a desire to give form to inner experiences that are undefinable, and not really related to anything my intellect is able to understand. Another thing I also think is important to mention is that every creative cycle needs a phase of rest, of emptiness. In today’s fast paced world, with social media and our interconnectedness becoming more apparent all the time, I often get this sense of urgency, as if there is a need to constantly produce new “content”. I sometimes feel that there is a shallowness to much of what is being produced. It in some ways feels like a shadow of capitalism: it’s more important to just produce something and sell it rather than create a space in one’s life where a truly meaningful and transformative inner process can take place. And then out of that process may come a unique work of art that has the power to open minds and hearts to new possibilities. I’ll conclude by sharing the one thing I do every single day that I believe helps with so much in life, including being open to one’s creative flow: meditate. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful it is to devote time every day to connect with the deepest aspects of one’s being. You not only help yourself, but you also create the best possible conditions for being a positive influence to others.

J: It’s always coming to the point when i think about how an artist does his music. So in your case I’d like to know if you’re more into Hardware or Software, also the DAW you prefer and which are the most used components in your music in the last years?

L: My philosophy is that you can use pretty much any tools to create wonderful things, if you are inspired and have a desire to express something authentic, something from your heart. Without that desire, you can have access to the most amazing recording studio in the world, and what you produce will still not be interesting to anyone. I recently listened to a singer who plays a guitar with just one single string and I had tears in my eyes from the incredible groove and emotion pouring out (and as a side note, I really love street musicians and I think that one amazing thing about this age we live in is the possibility for a performance from someone busking on the streets to touch the lives of millions). Back to gear. If I would design my dream studio with unlimited funds it would have a lot of real instruments and vintage gear (definitely including an original Pultec EQP-1A), but as I have usually lived in small spaces and not had an excess of money, software has played the main part in my journey. Probably also because that’s how I first learned to arrange music – at the age of 11 or so I began cutting and pasting audio together with a rudimentary sound editor on my dad’s computer, and pretty soon I had my first track done which I then recorded to a cassette tape. A bit later I installed a prehistoric version of Cubase and was off and running. I have used Ableton Live for over a decade now. I find it quite intuitive and logical, but in my own (highly biased) opinion, the most amazing stuff happened back when I used FruityLoops many years ago, and I have sometimes been toying with the idea of buying a new version. Though in truth I actually don’t get so excited either about software or hardware – I am excited about ideas, and there are always multiple ways of realizing an idea. The biggest issue with software is how limitless it is – it becomes overwhelming for me sometimes with the endless possibilities, and these days I experiment a lot with creating structures of limitation. I’m even playing with the thought of excluding the laptop entirely and moving over to a loop station for some new music ideas I have, but I think that a computer will always play some part in my productions, especially for mastering (at least until I can gather up a proper analog rack). Most used components the last few years? Other than my voice (which somehow becomes a part of everything I do), I don’t know. I love saturation, and FabFilter Saturn has been adding color to just about every track I made ever since I found it.

J: On your Bandcamp you offer a subscription to your fans. What experience have you made with it so far? And how did your personal situation change since March 2020?

L: Yes, I have slowly gathered up some steady supporters via the subscription, and I’m really happy about that. The listeners who stay on board year after year mean so much to me – even those I never hear from directly I still am aware of and appreciate. And though there are so far just a handful of them, knowing that they are there gives me extra incentive to finish music so that I can give something back for their yearly contribution. I wish there were more ways to customize the Bandcamp subscription to favor people who stay on for the long run… I have had quite a few people  signing up just to download all the back catalog that I offer, and then cancel their subscription. I mean, I get it – money feels tight sometimes, and you want to get all you can get for as little as possible, but I guess one of the things I really wish that humanity as a whole would adopt is a longer-term perspective guiding their decisions. If an artist has touched you in such a way that you want to own 40+ of their albums, perhaps you should consider helping them continue to create. Regarding the pandemic, I was pretty much already living like a hermit before, so in many ways not so much has changed in my personal day-to-day life, though last year it did impact and alter the course of some important decisions for me personally. It feels helpful for me to keep a long-term perspective here as well, and I’m confident that our global society is evolving in important ways on many levels through this crisis.

J: Your LP covers and also your Instagram (visual appearance) showing me that we’re sharing similarities of interest regarding nature and the insights of its components. How much is it linked to your music? I often feel connected to nature and I can see or interpret it in my own music, even if I don’t always see objects when doing the tracks.. But it’s influential …

L: Since this is a topic of great importance for me, I want to start out by making a clarification which perhaps seems like splitting hairs, but which I feel may be one of the most essential realizations for any one person or for humanity as a whole to align with, and that is to see that there is not nature and something else here on this planet. There is only nature. We use the term loosely to refer to those environments that appear less altered by humans, but in doing so we innocently make us think of ourselves as separate from nature – an external agent which can either love nature, harm nature, protect nature, or exploit it. The fact is, we are doing all that to ourselves. If Earth is a body, then humanity is one hand thinking that it exists on its own and can do what it wants. So even to say that “I feel connected to nature”, which is a statement I can definitely relate to and understand, I feel it is important to go one step beyond that to the realization that could be expressed as “I feel my inherent oneness with nature”. Whatever that nature is, I know that I am also that, yet without losing my personal identity which is a temporal experience. And even in that experience, I am still so intimately interconnected with everything else that it makes no sense to think of myself as a separate phenomena. This is essentially the realization that came to me in my teenage years, when I would spend hours alone in forests and small pastures outside the town where I grew up. I would intuitively go there after school, and all the pain and confusion I experienced in those years (and still do sometimes) would gently evaporate, sometimes after an hour, sometimes after two, but it would always happen. And it seemed like the whole world had changed, but the only thing that changed was my perception – the state from which I was viewing the world and my life. There is this innocence, right here in this moment, and you who are reading these words now, you are that innocence which is also the source of existence itself. Most of the time as humans, we entertain so many beliefs that we don’t even see the absolute splendor of this life, and with that I don’t just mean the peak experiences – I mean just the fact of being conscious of whatever I’m conscious of right now. There is a beauty and a radiance to existence itself, independent of the form it takes. That radiance is infinite, and it is what we are – our nature – giving rise to this whole universe. This is still the essence of what I am trying to communicate through my music, and of course it will forever be impossible to succeed in that endeavor, but it does produce a lot of interesting failed attempts.

J: Any final thoughts you would like to add?

L: Just to say thank you; to you Joachim for inviting me to share my perspective on these things, and for sharing your beautiful music with me. I really feel a resonance with it, and to me that is something deeper and richer than what we can fit into words. And thank you; to whoever is reading this – I hope you’ve found something either in my words or my music that helps you make sense of this life and to hopefully feel a little more OK in the midst of the storms, whether they be global or personal. Deep down, all is well… even in the midst of chaos… and everyone and everything is included in this.

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