Noé Solange is one of London’s rising electronica artists. On November 20 this year, she released her debut EP titled Bound – a collection of melancholic, emotive and woozy downtempo tracks that are a perfect accompaniment for those deep reflective moments. Noé was due to perform at our showcase gig at The Finsbury last May, but seen as the world has been in limbo since, an interview would have to suffice instead. I’m really excited about her music and was delighted to speak to her a couple of weeks ago. Here is how that went.
As always, make sure to listen to the music whilst reading for the best experience
I suppose the best place to start is to ask you about your background (personally and in music)! Who is Noé Solange?
Oh where do I start – I’m part Dutch, Czech, Indonesian and Surinamese, I was born in Holland and raised in eight different countries before moving to London to pursue my creative passions – I’m also a freelance photographer. I think relocating to London is the best decision I’ve made as it offers so many creative opportunities, a vast expansive community and I’ve met some wonderfully talented people along the way. I started playing piano, guitar and violin at a really young age so music has always been a big part of my life. I started writing and experimenting with the production side when I was fifteen/sixteen and here I am now, having finally released my first EP, many moons later.
Your music is intricate and delicate, each note carefully placed and designed. It must have taken you a long time to sculpt this EP, your attention to detail is impressive. How did you come to creating this kind of melancholic work and how would you best describe your sound?
It’s taken a long time producing and dabbling with different sounds, techniques and instruments to get to the point I’m at now. Nocturnal Lady was the first track I made that ticked all the boxes in regards to the sound I felt was my own – there’s plenty of unfinished work on my computer (I’m sure many artists experience this) that never quite reached my own sonic expectations. It was terrifying releasing the first single as it was a very personal song for me and displayed a vulnerable side of me that’s normally hidden from sight. I didn’t know what kind of feedback it would get but thankfully, the reception was positive and this experience snowballed into giving me the confidence I needed to compose the other tracks on the EP.
I combine organic sounds and electronic elements together with harmonic vocals to create my sound. I think they are the prominent aspects of my sound that portray who I am as an artist. I’ve certainly been inspired by the likes of Massive Attack, Laura Misch, Bonobo but feel I’ve moved into my own personal style of production through years of experimenting. The end result is a sound that blends old school techniques (trip-hop drums) with modern elements (layered synths) too.
Would you be able to describe the overall theme of the EP and perhaps run through a mini song-by-song commentary of each?
The EP overall, consists of four songs and a radio edit of Invisible Handcuffs. Basically the whole EP takes you on a journey of love, loss and struggle that are both reflective of myself and also society as a whole.
The first track is called Bound – the song explores the topic of toxic infatuation, freedom, contemplation and confusion – a mix of all of these things. The song is based on the struggle of trying to break free from somebody’s toxic nature – instrumentally and vocally, the song sounds soft and melancholic but the lyrics are much deeper and darker. For example, ‘Ice melting thin, which you let me sink in too’. I tried making it easy listening with an eerie feel coming through in the vocals. This was achieved through experimenting with multiple harmonies.
Nocturnal Lady is the second song on the EP and was released earlier in the year as a teaser, of sorts. It was written during a really difficult time and it deals with my personal struggles with insomnia. It’s a very personal song about myself but I also wanted to link in some wider societal aspects into the lyrics too – I wanted to convey the point that our modern world disregards our need for sleep with the use of phones and computers. This makes it hard for us to switch off individually.
Falling is slightly different as it sounds a lot more upbeat due to the Asian percussion (Gamalan, Taiko, Koto), which are inspired by my time living in Japan as well as my Indonesian roots. The theme of the song is emotional vulnerability and lost love. Through the repetition of the word falling, I wanted to depict a constant progression of sorrow and the feeling of falling over.
Invisible Handcuffs is inspired by my perception of society, which has been influenced by my degree in Sociology. It starts off with sampled media (news) reports that are still relevant to us all nowadays, these snippets include audio clips of COVID reports, The Jakarta flooding (which is especially poignant as I was there at that time), Australian bush fires and BLM. I use them to signify the chaotic turmoil happening around the world.
The lyrics are quite straightforward and descriptive. It’s a track describing the restrictions some powerful people have created to overlook the pain and hardship of others in need. There are so many people who can help in the world, yet they purposely avoid societal problems and look at things through distorted rose-tinted glasses.
The final track is a radio edit of that track without the samples to make it a little easier for people to listen to in a radio setting or otherwise.
**Stream the full EP here**
How did you record the EP? Do you have a home studio? What music tech do you use for your productions?
I work at home mainly but before it was considered complete, I had my friend Jose, who is a sound engineer, assist with some of the drums and the mixdown. The production side of it is done in my home studio, so luckily I didn’t have to go far. I love using vocal harmonies and layered synths! I’d love to own a Minimoog, but for now, the Arturia plug-ins will do. I enjoy mixing digital sounds with more organic elements that I record myself, like the Tibetan singing bowl, which is subtly used in ‘Falling’. I think it brings more dimension to a track.
Living in London now, how have you adapted to your new surroundings and have you been immersed in London’s vibrant music culture?
A lot of my friends are creative’s and we are all in the same boat and understand the struggles of life as an artist. Photographers, videographers, musicians and artists – I’m lucky to have a support network of all of these wonderful people around me. London is the perfect creative hub to have this kind of community. The music scene in the city (pre corona) is amazing – I love going to random little gigs and finding new artists – I used to take photos for Sofar sounds and loved their gigs. I don’t care what type of music is played, what excites me is seeing how different musicians perform on stage and I can’t wait to have this back. I had a brief taste of live music again last month at a sit down (socially distanced) gig of my friend Yassine which had me itching to get up on stage myself.
Being a musician and a photographer (two jobs that have become problematic these days), how has this turbulent year affected you?
Well, by nature, I’m the definition of a Nocturnal Lady whereby I can work alone, for hours on end. Being isolated and working on the new EP was something I didn’t mind at all. I think everyone is going through a difficult time, especially those who work freelance – I started working hard on my music during lockdown as a way to escape from the stresses that came with the uncertainty on 2020. As a photographer, the job became very unstable so making music made me feel more at ease – it acted as a form of therapy I suppose. In saying this, I think lockdown also allowed people to reflect on their daily life, habits etc, and take a step back from certain things. Also, many people got to realise the importance of the arts too – people streamed more, listened to music more, started painting etc – they depended on the creative industry.
When the world is back to normal again, what will your live show be? Will you fly the flag solo or will you draft in some helping hands?
I hope for it to be a solo synth production show – I like to be in control of the music and to be able to change things up when I feel like it. I’d prefer that type of performance but I’m not sure it will be yet. When COVID ends, I hope to start gigging straight away and hopefully get to show the world my music.
Finally, I just want to touch on an EP called Lost and Found. You appeared on it earlier in the year alongside house producer Yescene: Where did that collaboration come from and where did the two of you meet?
When I first moved to London I thought it would be best to do vocal features on songs and work with other producers to start. I felt uncomfortable producing my own which emphasizes the importance of Nocturnal Lady’s release. I signed up to an app called Shapr (which at the time, was an app for creative’s to source collaborations) and we met through there as he was looking for a vocalist. From there, we’ve become great friends. We agreed to collaborate on one song together but the process was so natural and flowed so well that we ended up releasing four. This collaborative EP is different to my own style but it was good fun making it.
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a one-man music blog which is still only a baby – Founded and run by Kevin Coakley in early 2019. He is a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.
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