Elysian aim to reimagine nostalgic trance with EP, ‘Water’ [Roundtable Interview]
Put to sea in the midst of a bustling era, the Elysian project has declared trance is still alive and well. Consisting of Ilan Bluestone, Maor Levi, and Emma Hewitt, the supergroup surfaced unannounced in April of this year with debut “Moonchild,” which witnessed three of the most formidable scene players coalesce for a new vision.
Despite each artist having individually fruitful schedules, Elysian’s formation came as a no-brainer to the trio, who have all previously collaborated to varying degrees. Most of all, the collective represented the opportunity to explore uncharted territories in the form of combined idiosyncrasies.
So landed Water. The inaugural EP from Elysian delivered a formidable execution of nostalgic dance music, harkening to early days of trance dominance without duplicating the beloved sound. While the eponymous track instills chops reminiscent of the vocal trance epoch, Bluestone and Levi’s mammoth “tronce” stylings breathe new life into the long-lived trope. Similarly, “Beyond The Comfort Zone” and “Moonchild” reap the euphoric cross-marriage of old and new trance forces, with rapturous female vocals clashing harmoniously with industrially-charged production. However, Elysian’s willingness to broach non-electronic spaces as witnessed in “Little Star,” shows the project’s vision is defined not by genre, but by innovation.
Dancing Astronaut spoke to Elysian about the story behind their origination, 80s inspiration in “Little Star,” and more.
Read the full roundtable interview and stream Water below.
What’s the story behind the formation of Elysian?
Maor Levi: “Ilan and I are known as the dynamic duo of Tronce with all our productions over the years. When Ilan had the idea for the project the first time, he asked me what did I think of joining it, and how exciting it was. He knew that we could make it even more magical if I was to be on board, and we did because we both get along and have a great workflow in the studio so it only made sense to form this group together, with each of us specializing in specific foundations of music, it turned out to be all synced and in harmony.”
Emma Hewitt: “I was working with Ilan in London on a 138 track, and we were discussing a love of old school, early emotional electronic music like Oceanlab, Chicane, and even Enya and we were saying how we would love to create a project inspired by the same kind of emotions. Ilan and Maor already have an amazing chemistry working on songs, and a great friendship. Ilan introduced Maor and I, and we all struck a vibe on the same kinds of sounds so it was just a no brainer then for the three of us to start making songs together.”
Ilan Bluestone: “Emma originally approached me after our collaboration with my Stoneblue project. She asked me if I wanted to create a super group which I definitely wanted to be a part of. Due to our busy schedules I knew that I would need help with finishing off projects, and at the time I couldn’t think of anyone better than my bro Maor Levi. With his talent for creating amazing grooves and prowess in the studio, we knew he was the perfect addition to the group.”
You’re all highly respected in the sounds you’ve carved for yourselves. What do you hope to achieve by teaming up as Elysian?
Maor Levi: “Mostly to be original and break boundaries, we want this to appeal to everyone, even to non trance listeners. We have a chance to do something new and refreshing and push the envelope forward using all our skills and I find it very exciting.”
Emma Hewitt: “With the three of us together I feel like we are creating something a little different from all of our individual styles. Elysian is starting to form a unique sound and I can’t wait to explore more of that.”
Ilan Bluestone: “We want to bring our sound to the masses in the way dance music was from the early 90s until 2010. I feel there is a massive gap in the market for us and that dance music isn’t what it used to be. There are a lot of incredible musicians on the scene at the moment, but I do personally feel that the nostalgic melodic factor of dance music though has slightly disappeared. I think with my musical melodies, Emma’s beautiful voice, and Maor’s groove skills, we have the best package.”
How do you approach the songwriting and production process as a trio?
Maor Levi: “It’s a lot easier when all three of us are in the same room, Emma writes all the vocals and lyrics while myself and Ilan focus on the main idea and developing it to fit everyone’s vision, from melodies to groove and overall engineering, which makes it very smooth and easy.”
Emma Hewitt: “We all have a role to play in the songwriting process, which is awesome! Ilan is a melody magician, I’m more about the vocal topline/lyrics, and Maor is creating insane beats and tracks! We have done most of the writing all in the room together, and it seems to just flow! We managed to knock out four songs in three days in our first session together, which is something that very rarely happens.”
Ilan Bluestone: “I normally sit alone with Emma in the studio and come up with melodic ideas. For example when we wrote ‘Water,’ Maor was out of the studio at the time, but he returned with fresh ears to give his input. I think this is very effective because it gives the other person a fresh ear when analysing the melodic elements. Sometimes, for example as with ‘Moonchild,’ I had a melodic orchestrated piece which I composed in a few hours, played it to Maor and he instantly started working on a groove whilst I filled up more melodic elements. I set up my studio in to two workstations, Maor sits on his own set up behind me another pair of speakers. That way we can work off each other.”
What’s the vision behind Elysian?
Emma Hewitt: “For me, I think we really just want to create music that has a soul, that has a real feeling to it, and conveys something on a deeper level.”
Ilan Bluestone: “The vision is to take us to the next level and we are going to do things which have not been done before, but I can’t say much more than that ;) But let’s just say that the experience that you will get from our future shows will be unforgettable.”
Despite Elysian mainly being a trance project, your new EP, Water does explore beyond that. Specifically “Little Star,” harkens to a nostalgic, more classic non-electronic sound with elements like the sax and rock ballad structures. What inspired the direction of this track?
Maor Levi: “We are all huge fans of the Retro 80s sounds and since this is an EP, we treat it as if it was an album, we had more freedom to work on whatever we desired and we figured since we had three bangers in the pipeline, we can break the rules and approach the fourth track differently so there’s some variety. That’s how ‘Little Star’ was born. It was a random night at Ilan’s studio which turned into a nostalgic trip in music which inspired us to write and produce it, then we decided to modernize it a little, but also keep the key elements of the retro sound.”
Ilan Bluestone: “I’m an 80s boy and always will be.. I love producing 80s stuff, it gives me real satisfaction as well as producing dance music. When I played Maor the original melodic idea of ‘Little Star’ we both knew that it had to be modernised which was where Maor came in to play with the 80s meets dubstep style groove. Emma loved the track and started writing lyrics instantly after hearing it! She really is a magician when it comes down to connecting to the song. I’m actually very happy with the way this track turned out and I’m glad that people are feeling it as much as we are.”
I’ve heard Elysian has a special live performance planned for when shows return. Can you give a sneak-peek of what’s to come?
Maor Levi: “It will be very special! But, you’ll just have to wait and see ;)”
Emma Hewitt: “Once the touring world comes back to life, we are putting together an epic live show with immersive visuals and some live instruments. The live show has been a driving force in our vision from the start, so we can’t wait to bring the other side of this project out into the world.”
Ilan Bluestone: “Let’s just say that the visual aspect of the show is going to be somewhat futuristic. I can’t reveal anymore than that, but I will say with what I’ve seen so far… Prepare yourself for something next level.”
As prolific artists with extensive careers in the progressive and melodic trance scene, what do you feel is lacking right now? What has you excited?
Maor Levi: “I personally feel a lot of labels limit themselves to one specific sound and style while the world is hungry for innovation and something new. We thrive to combine what we love and what people wanna hear with a little bit of spice, to make it exciting and fresh.”
Ilan Bluestone: “Something that’s really lacking at the moment in the music world is something different. I hear too much of the same copy and paste beats and melodies and nothing which is making me go WOW. Maybe it’s just me being fussy, but I need melodic orgasms to my ears. I still get excited from all this new genre morphing such as Techno meeting Trance from back in the day. It sounds like Techno and Trance from 2004/8 are back in fashion and that’s exciting times!”
What’s in the pipeline for the coming months?
Maor Levi: “Another EP, maybe even an album, we are only getting started!”
Emma Hewitt: “We have the remixes for the Water EP on the way, and a second EP on the way. We have written most of this already and can’t wait to share it. Hopefully the touring world bounces back soon and we can kick off the live shows soon too.”
Ilan Bluestone: “I’m currently finishing off my new album which will be revealed very very soon. All I’m gonna say is I’m super proud of it as I’ve been working on it for nearly two years and that’s my main focus as well as the Elysian project. My album has my classic sound, but I’ve obviously tried to take it up a notch and I can’t wait for the world to hear as I still get excited by every record!”
Featured image: Lauren Luxenberg