Art thou listening: Kölsch talks personalizing the underground musical space for album number two
“There is so much beautiful music to be heard and I can’t help but feel a lot of it is being missed. A lot of the art disappears in exchange for aesthetics. I intend to bring the art of music back permanently.”
The sun has finally set in Ibiza and a 16-piece orchestra is warming up in the backdrop of an unknown location. We’ve found a rare spot of respite and time to chat with Rune Reilly Kölsch, the ex radio-friendly heavyweight who dropped the hits in favor of art back in 2010. One incredibly personal album, an Essential New Tune and a landmark appearance at Glastonbury later, Kölsch stands for a man bringing raw emotion and character back into the techno landscape. With Ableton slaving to meet his criteria for an improvised live experience and the world swooning towards his every movement, Dancing Astronaut learned that Denmark’s hottest underground prospect might have only been warming things up til now.
Deep EDM. Melodic techno. Dreamy house. Rune chuckles at the sheer variety of attempts to coin his sound to date, circling to the years of instant gratification more commonly associated with that of his Rune RK moniker. A respected yet subsequently retired chapter in his musical playbook, the namesake behind “Calabria” was shunned for an ideal musical space driven by an inescapable hunger for creative freedom. “It felt like the creativity had been sucked out of that sound,” he admits. “It was more about the impact or the drop than the actual substance of the record itself. It’s an interesting challenge to limit yourself to a few minutes on a radio record, but I always felt that it was the same as putting a piece of art on the wall and cutting half of it off because it doesn’t fit the actual space.”
Music is art. 20 years into his musical career, there’s no telling Rune any different. He asserts so with rhyme and reason intact, most likely attributable to having witnessed the shelf life of his craft limited by predictable and mind-numbing movements made by the status quo. After so many leaps, bounds and creative triumphs as an industry, he suggests, electronic music simply deserves something with a little more substance.
“If you don’t live up to what is current or the sound of the time then it’s difficult for people to get interested. As soon as it becomes popular it becomes repetitive. As soon as it becomes stadium sized somehow it becomes more about the effect and the LED show than the actual music. I find it difficult because that’s not what makes me tick creatively. I have been accepted in this world, but we all worry about the underground sound being bastardized in the same way. But that’s my job and challenge – to stay on top of that somehow.”
Enter 1977, the extremely personal debut album from a man who admits to being totally against club albums. Seeking the antidote to the awkward ins and outs of drum loops and a melodic point of focus adaptable to the club floor, its success is quickly attributed to a belief that the remits between electronic and pop albums need not be overthought. “The thing that scares most people away that aren’t stalwarts to this sound or world is that 4/4 kick drum. That’s just the name of the game we play. It’s the nature of techno and house music, but it isn’t the sole aspect of it. So long as you can do something that is melodic and interesting beyond that an album can work just fine.”
Coming from the man who subsequently took the pop out of Coldplay at Chris Martin’s request (“who gets to do that!?”), the prospect of album number two looming on the horizon looks to buck this trend for electronic music with substance. He points to “Cassiopeia,” the Essential New Tune based on a fictional turtle that could stop time. As personal as it is a slightly odd reference, Rune finds himself leading a welcome argument that whilst electronic music’s shelf life continues to decrease, it is the moments with meaning that can last both on the dance floor and past its enclosed remits.
“The concept of time standing still has been poignant for a huge chunk of my life. What we do in dance music is try and make time stand still for just a few moments, really defining an experience along the way. The next album is about moments that changed my life. It’s about fleshing out these defining moments in which you realize something. That makes the art of this all that much more meaningful”
With his next album in tow, I probe what is in store for Kölsch Live. Pushing entire musical segments rather than just buttons has become something of a calling card for this wild ride experience, once that even has Rune himself a little lost for words.
“I’ve found that as an artist if you surprise yourself on stage it has an equal effect on the crowd. That’s what I am trying to do, keep it free and moving but intuitive at the same time.” Glastonbury alongside Pete Tong, London for South West Four and an unprecedented run at Ushuaia Ibiza are yet further testament to the payoff of a leap of blind yet ambitious faith towards a world where the DJ performs rather than poses.
The ambition doesn’t stop with a few choice venues. Tasking Ableton with the challenge of matching their Live platform with capacity for improvised visuals, Amsterdam Dance Event will tell just how successfully the task of a fully customized experience has been attained. Rune is reassuringly optimistic.
“The creativity side is there and every time visuals get involved it sort of limits you. You can’t improvise them. What I do is very much improvised and I want my visuals to follow suit. This show is a whole new level of hard work, but to have 360-degree control is the dream here.”
Rune Reilly Kölsch is not a preacher, nor is he out to vilify the next generation of EDM enthusiasts. As we sign off with just hours to spare from his next appearance at Space Ibiza, the mission statement couldn’t ring clearer: An artist can not only learn new tricks, but redefine the magic of creativity for a tired yet burgeoning market.