Artist: Pär Grindvik
Title: Isle of Real
Label: Stockholm LTD
Release: Out Now
Pär has been a central figure in the Swedish electronic scene since the 90s as record store owner, label manager and producer. In his artistic career he has released music across a plethora of acclaimed electronic labels, including a string of hits on his own Stockholm LTD imprint as well as Drumcode, with frequent collaborator Hardcell.
With musical experiences spanning back to the mid 90s, Par Grindvik has decided to encapsulate his musical journey through the release of his debut album ‘Isle of Real’. This is a ten track LP, which embraces different influences and defects in some cases from the familiar club 4/4 tracks, which we have become accustomed to in the past. Over the course of a year and amongst the chaos of touring he delivers an excellent piece of work, which takes the listener on a journey that could resemble the various moods an artist goes through whilst on the road.
The album starts with ‘Never Give In’, a wonderful atmospheric track with swirling haunting pads and dubby low end. Interestingly within is almost Aphex Twin like fill almost similar to distorted typewriter but strangely enough works will the over track. Moving back into that signature sound, which I have become familiar with ‘Headland’ takes us on to the dance floor, for some full on driving Swedish techno with an eerie bell sequence and an auto-panned distorted signal sounds moving the track through.
‘The Martlon’ I would describe as probably the more housey side of the album, has a catchy riff that is ever present, weaving through as the filter opens and closes allowing the track to progress with its very techy hats. The next two tracks take us back to the more melodic electronica side of things. Both compositions ‘Shine’ & ‘Isle of Real’ deliver wonderful soundscapes elements with ‘Shine’ in particular reminding me of a groove similar to a liquid drum and bass track.
As we moved towards the second half of the album ‘Limits of Real’ takes us back into an almost futuristic vibe and trippy piano sequence on the breakdown fills with minimal style fills syncopated throughout. The rolling techno groove in continued with ‘Holy Nothing’ and probably my favourite track on the album. Whilst I am very much a fan of electronica and ambient textured tracks this is a real treat. The choppy and shuffled groove is very 90’s like and the use of piano like fill with what seems heavily fx’d stabs would fit nicely in a peak time slot.
Then ‘Shelter’ shoes again another side of the artist in using a two-step styled kick and percussive loop with an ever-present organ-like melody continues from beginning to end. Like named track of the album ‘Tide of Us’ is a short but sweet track of futuristic but fun sounding elements, which would make a nice intro for a set. Finally comes the last track on the album called ‘Changes’. As I listen to this album, this track seems to have components, which are consistent with the overall vibe and sound of the LP. There is a wonderful amalgamation of sci-fi like sounds and spooky minimal like percussion all layered onto a solid classic techno low end. Grindvik has really stamped his authority and given the listener a sense of who and what he is as an artist.
In light of his debut album ‘Isle of Real’, we spoke to Par about the creative process and his vision for the album, which was recently released.
Hi Par, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us.
The pleasure is all mine!
Could you give us a brief introduction on how you got into music production?
I grew up surrounded by a lot of music and at a time when electronic music started to be more common in pop music, as well as in our daily lives. I guess what fascinated me was all the new sounds, which didn’t sound like traditional instruments as well as the increasing accessibility, which made it easier and easier to produce your own music in your bedroom.
My older brother was spinning records, mostly Italo style music, so I started to explore and look for my style at a very young age. Also, one of my older cousins had a home studio and used to play at some of the early “rave” parties in his hometown of Gothenburg. This was just at the beginning of the nineties and I made my first attempt at music in his studio at the age of 11.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard it before?
I’ll guess I’m influenced by the music I grew up with, so my writing carries a lot of mid-nineties techno. Especially my new album, Isle Of Real. I kind of see this record as an homage to all of the music which shaped who I am.
How long was the overall production process for this album from inception to mastering?
It took me a little over a year, from when I started to write to when I made the final master. I started by writing a demo of 20 tracks between November and December in 2014 and I think that I made the master of the record in December 2015.
In the production of this album can you tell us the studio setup you used?
The production process was quite different from how I’ve worked in the past. I had the idea that I wanted create the record in a more traditional way; to write, record, arrange and mix it all in separate sessions. So I started to sketch a demo while travelling, without caring too much about production at this stage.
I then took this demo with me to Stockholm and recorded 14 of the tracks in Peder Mannerfelt’s studio. This was a 4-day session of where I recorded streams of the songs with all kind of instruments and outboard effects. Peder worked as my recording assistant and second opinion the whole time and we moved forward quite quickly. I think we really managed to keep my original writing intact in a way that you rarely do when you work on your own – you tend to change too much.
We actually didn’t change anything, just decided which instrument to use on each sound and so on. I then took the material with me back to my studio in Berlin where I arranged, mixed and decided what was really going to end up on the record. Some songs didn’t fit in and I wrote a handful of new material, where I tried to keep the same vibe from the recordings that we made in Stockholm.
I have to say that a big part of the process was finding the right length for the material and to create a unity which rang from the first to the last track on the record. I then took a well-needed break from the record for a few months before going back to properly check the mix downs and finally to master the whole thing. So the studio setup was everything from laptop to hardware synths, back into the computer and out again for mixing and mastering.
Did you have a fixed idea or vision when you started or did it just develop from different projects?
It was a pretty clear idea, both the writing and production process and as most of the material was written around the same time. But I had no clue how the record was going to sound really, that just happened.
What particular pieces of hardware/software were critical in the creation process for you?
Here’s a list of gear that I really think shaped the sound of the record:
Korg M1, DS Pro 2, U-he Zebra2 + Diva, EMS Synthi, Sound Toys, TKaudio BC1, Kush Clearaphonic, TKaudio TKlizer.
Would you use many samples or are all the elements in each track created from scratch?
Most of the drums on the record are actually samples. I have a drum bank that I’ve been creating over the years, I mean there’s still some Roland drum machines in there, but in general a lot of them are samples from sessions in the past. The rest is very much created from scratch. I have my favourite synths and effects which I use but not many samples there.
How long does it normally take for you to finish a track?
It depends. I think it actually changed while writing this album. I used to do a crazy amount of versions and mix downs. But now I work in sessions and that makes me move forward much quicker. It’s like I’m keeping my ears fresh during the whole process.
Do you find that your approach on each of the tracks differed or do you have a fixed workflow?
What gear or program I use changes a lot but my workflow of writing, recording, arranging and mixing in different sessions is essential to me today.
Your music is mostly dance floor orientated but on this album has ambient and electronica. Do you feel you will produce more work of this nature or is it for album only purposes?
I might have let the listening pieces take more space on this album than on previous releases, but I most always write and put together my releases the way I feel like listening to them. I like the storytelling approach, even though my music is 4/4 based.
Finally Par, I would like to say thanks for taking the time out to chat to us here at Decoded, and we wish you the best of luck with the new album.
Thank you for having me.