“Reality feels like a science-fiction daydream in a spaceship unravelling around a star,” writes Portland-based musician and video artist Paavo Koya who has just released his third album New Aqge. This is his latest self-produced project after having previously released Scrolling (2016) and Squeezing Through the Door in the Center of Earth (2011), as he describes it, “quietly on Soundcloud.”
Working across media, Koya’s practice explores hypnotic new-ness and the difficulty in finding familiarity. The new album is inspired by entanglement, time dilation and melancholic memory drifts and sits somewhere between what he describes as the “experimental nature of the new century” and elements of pop. The sound seems of the songs New Aqge seems to draw from the breadth of that period. Where early millennial lo-fi and dream pop emerges in the growing synth loop of album opener ‘Entanglement’, while ‘Richi 1’ has elements of vaporwave and experiments in putting music to the virtual plaza — the stock sounds of a shopping mall — in the early video game-style 8-bit blocks of its composition. Then there’s the Silicon Valley mysticism of the likes of Transmuteo, Contact Lens and PSYCHIC LCD of ‘Axiis Spinning (Solar Edit)’ and ‘Cyanobacteria Entry Descent’ (listen below).
Here’s what Koya has to say about his new album and the influences of technology and elemental nature that have informed it:
** What’s the story behind the mis-spelling of ‘new age’?
Paavo Koya: It actually came about in 2011 when uploading my first album to Soundcloud. I was prompted to give a genre for my work and as I was typing out ‘New Age’ the site’s algorithm kept pre-filling what it thought my answer would be. In an attempt to purposefully avoid false categorization, I wrote ‘newaqge’ and felt that it perfectly represented the problems of modern digitalism. We commit errors to workaround forced ‘efficiencies’ such as auto-correct and predictive cataloging. Half-baked technology is sold as an advancement, yet ultimately slowing us down.
** I’ve noticed you work across media, do you produce the music for the videos or is it the other way around?
PK: The music and videos are made separately but are both inspired by the interaction of high technology and elemental nature. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have a lot of access to hiking and camping in undisturbed forests. Before writing music, I often put myself mentally in these places as a meditation.
** I like the mellow repetition in ‘Cyanobacteria Entry Descent’. It feels like a mix between something you’d purposely have on in the ‘background’ to relax, while also bringing in some quite poppy elements.
PK: Yeah, it’s interesting how songs can sort of ‘click together’ when you’re writing them. I’ve always been a fan of arpeggiated synths and use them often in my songwriting. The bass and drum beat were inspired by Massive Attack’s ‘Black Milk’, which has a sinister undertone. That song is a reference to proposed methods of terraforming Mars with cyanobacteria and is supposed to be background music for that potential event. I watch a livestream of a rover vehicle entering and subsequently pollinating Mars’ atmosphere with life as I mundanely browse the news at work.
** Do you see the day-dreamy disorientation as a positive, or is it a fear of the broken-record and overly familiar?
PK: Definitely a little of both. Daydreams can bring about revelation and new ideas, or stir up painful memories and dark energy. The fear of the broken record certainly lends itself to the idea that entropy is inevitable and all things will fade with time.
** Is the day-dream is related to the hypnotic?
PK: It’s related to the hypnotic in the sense that we can innocently wander into a daydream with meditative thoughts but be lead into a hypnotic state with little control of our thoughts and actions. My music certainly treads the boundary between bright daydream and subtle hypnotism.
** There seems to be a strong interest in combining the spiritual, scientific and technological.
PK: Combining these elements helps give meaning to truth and this is ultimately what I strive to express in my work. The cycle of exhilarating new-ness and melancholic entropy repeating throughout time are representative of the changing seasons, the birth and death of stars and life. These patterns are audibly represented with emotion and sentiment.
** Do you believe in ‘new-ness’?
PK: I certainly hoped to encapsulate the feeling of new-ness in the record. The disorientation of repetitive arpeggiation and steady kicks. Sometimes this disorientation can be breathtaking like a roller-coaster or lead to dizziness and feeling overwhelmed. This is a representation of the state of technology and societal change.
** What’s the ideal listening situation, does it belong online/in our bedrooms or in a performance/experiential event?
This album is made with exploration in mind so probably headphones. It is a soundtrack for discovering your place in time. Hiking through lush temperate rainforests, riding the train through a dense buzzing city, or harvesting asteroids on Enceladus.**