I had a chance to catch up with Olli Aarni about his recent Preservation-released album under the Nuojuva name...
I think that most people who visit the Fluid website would be familiar with some of your previous work as Ous Mal and would be wondering why you decided to adopt a new artist name. Is there any particular reason, or reasons, behind the change?
Basically I just wanted to have a name that means something in Finnish (“Swaying”), even though it’s a word no one is actually using. Ous Mal is just two made up words. I didn’t think about changing a moniker as a dramatic thing or anything, the new name just seems to suit better the music I make now. I feel like there has been some kind of shift in my music, though it’s hard to explain what it could be.
Given that there is clearly some continuity between projects (I assume the new project name derives, in part, from the title of the final Ous Mal album Nuojuva Halava) what are the most significant similarities and points of difference between the two projects?
I don’t know if there’s that much difference really. I never had a concept or any set limitations for this music, so any differences that might appear come from my changed way of thinking over time. I’d say the biggest difference is the one that comes naturally over time. I think nowadays I like to focus more on things on a bigger scale whereas I see Ous Mal a little more playful music, if I had to name one difference.
This album, to me, manages to balance a light, spacious quality with a thoroughly physical presence – you can really hear the sound sources i.e. the crackle of the vinyl is as important as the sampled notes. Can you explain a little about your recording processes?
I don’t think of the notes and sounds as different things. That would mean there’s a difference between what you hear and what there is theoretically. It’s partly because my setup is highly limited in those terms. The thing that fascinates me in samples, found sounds and field recordings is the unpredictable texture that comes from the physicality of the sound source. For me the physicality is the essence of using those techniques. Working with really simple setup doesn’t allow me to freely manipulate the sounds. For example pitch shifting with different tape speeds and record RPMs is very limited and slow, and time stretching is basically impossible with my setup. I couldn’t imagine working with samples on a computer because of the infinite possibilities, I’d get lost immediately. I rather let the physical existence of the sounds dictate how they can be used. Finding different things that go well together is always a magical thing.
To my ears this new album sounds more consistent/focused than the Ous Mal albums – is there a particular theme or concept underlying this album? If so, did this concept influence your recording process, or did you select these tracks from a wider library of recordings that didn’t fit so well with the theme?
There are some themes on the record, though they weren’t that well thought beforehand. One thing that inspired me was the changing of lighting in the nature. Being somehow affected by the daylight or darkness seems to be a very fundamental interaction with one’s surroundings and it seems to affect one’s thinking a lot. It also carries a lot of metaphorical value. I’d say I tried to capture a feeling of some kind of a dimming light with this record. Not total darkness or bright daylight, but different shades in between.
It appears that you have introduced vocals to a much greater extent on this album…I find it hard to hear lyrics (I mainly listen to instrumental music) – what role does the human voice have on this album – is it to be considered primarily as an instrument, or are the lyrics integral to the songs?
I’d say the lyrics are very integral, though I know they are barely audible on the record. I don’t think of vocals as another instrument in that sense, because they can transfer meanings through language as well. My use of vocals on this record probably is a bit like as if they were just another instrument. I wanted the vocal parts to be an integral part of the foggy sound world.
I’m always interested in people’s influences…you’ve been making music for some time; who have been the different musical influences on your style? who/what/which artists inspired you to start making music in the first place – and now, what music is on high rotation on your own stereo?
Back when I started making electronic music I was listening to some progressive and punk rock from the 70s and whatever music I found through skateboarding videos, like hip hop with the VHS sound quality. That was when I was a youngster. The best way to make music back then was to mess around with a synth and a computer because I didn’t have a band or anything. I started sampling records from the local library quite quickly after that so I went through quite a bit of their music collection and picked randomly whatever looked interesting and found lots of good music through that. Some of my more recent favorites are Vashti Bunyan, Kevin Drumm, Tapio Rautavaara, Mount Eerie and many others.
What’s next for Nuojuva? Any plans to tour?
I started working on my next album a little while ago and it’s really time-consuming. I’m also making arrangements of the tracks for a live setting. Touring would be nice.