Many bands form over members’ shared tastes, interests and perspectives, but often the most innovative and fresh sounds come from the most unlikely combinations of collaborators.
Sweden’s NOÊTA is a prime example of the latter. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Êlea and Ândris, the duo began creating music together after meeting in 2013. Her musical background in soul, 40s blues, and black metal sharply contrasted with his technical training and experience in Swedish folk music, which made the project all the more interesting for both of them. “Our backgrounds were equally broad and varied, but from completely different worlds. It was interesting to us, being complete opposites. Each bringing in tiny details from places the other did not know exist. NOÊTA was in a way rooted in a challenging of each other’s values and preferences, musically and technically, with Ândris’ school-taught, correct way of playing and producing, and my turbulent, often ‘incorrect,’ way of doing the same,” Êlea says.
Soon, NOÊTA proved their instincts had been right. Their 2015 EP, psykhē, showcased a moody, hypnotic blend of warm, fingerpicked guitar and other folk instruments matched with lush ambient electronics. According to Êlea, its minimalist qualities as well as its somber atmospheres are due in part to Swedish folk traditions, as well as the sounds of the instruments themselves.
Image by Christopher Zibell
“Although I can’t with accuracy describe differences between folk music from other cultures, there’s often a dark and melancholic tone in Scandinavian folk music,” she says. “When it comes to the mixing of these sounds, it’s more so the mood and style that needs to correlate, rather than the techniques and instruments, especially true today with the various effects used to manipulate instrument’s sounds. When we’ve used folk instruments on our album, for instance, people have thought it to be programmed drones, due to the effects we’ve used. We challenge ourselves to use as many real instruments as possible and not rely solely on programmed sounds, here, the unusual nature of the folk instruments play an important part in our process.”
On their debut full-length, Beyond Life and Death, NOÊTA goes even deeper into these emotions and moods, presenting a record divided into three distinct sections conceptualized around mankind’s place in the universe and the natural world. “We had a feeling like we’d explored a lot of musical paths since the EP, and we wanted [them] to really become our entire sound. The three parts allowed us to give a red thread through those expressions,” Êlea says. “The lyrics are very interconnected with my life, and this music is not a journey to self pity, but as we have earlier stated: an accompaniment to introspection. If a listener walks away with some remnant of that—a question, a realization, a curiosity—then, in a sense, they truly have had the journey I intended.”
Recorded largely at Ândris’ house, the band’s careful selection of unusual guitar tunings and use of different recording equipment to capture different songs only adds more to the ambiance. One moment is warm and intimate, the next is a free fall into sonic abyss.
“We consciously search for an organic sound, where you can hear that someone is actually playing an instrument. Because of that a lot of small quirks and imperfections are left as they are. However we’ve also used different recording equipment for different songs, which plays a part. As for the concept of the album, the ambience depends on how distant the context of the song is. The more ambience, the more distant and observing the context. In general, we try not to use a standard formula for anything, which ends up varying the expression itself.” Êlea says.
Get lost in the atmospheres of Beyond Life and Death now. The album comes out February 17 via Prophecy Productions.