Jaakko Pallasvuo

Anxious momentums: introducing City with a new mix + chat ahead of Progress Bar performance

28 November 2017

Coming to light via his Arcadia mix and subsequent LP, A Goal is an Image, both on label Halcyon Veil, the music of Will Ballantyne juxtaposes acoustic motifs with synthetic sound design. It’s the subconscious product of being inspired by the music he listened to growing up, combined with the natural outcome of using iPhone and YouTube field recordings as source material. “I tend to gravitate towards the feeling of electronic interference or distortion acting as a kind of bed for a more true, acoustic motif to play on top of”, says the Vancouver-based producer who goes by the alias City.  

A lot of City’s inspiration comes from what he perceives as a diaristic approach: “samples, melodies, song titles, progressions, etc., are things that have been bouncing around my head for years and it’s a conscious process to incorporate them into my music so that I can try to present something that’s honest and fleshed out.” It’s an approach he finds in the work of artist Jaakko Pallasvuo – whose artwork accompanied Arcadia – and its principles continued to be referenced in A Goal is an Image. “It’s important to me to portray this beautiful naturalistic picture that also resonates with my personal experiences. Textually, the song titles contribute to a narrative alongside my other tracklists and releases that’s better left unsaid.”  

While his music has been described as taking ‘styles foreign to the putative club experience’, City affirms that this isn’t deliberate. “I think in a way it’s kinda disrespectful to try to mess with what people get out of clubs”, he says. “I really haven’t spent a lot of time in clubs or club culture so I wouldn’t feel right attempting to mess with that mold.” Instead, City’s music revolves around what he calls ‘anxious momentum’, “this feeling of overwhelming inevitability, something inescapable and crushing.”

City will be playing at the upcoming Progress Bar club night in Amsterdam on December 2. With a stacked line-up of artists, including GAIKA, 808INK, Kojey Radical, S4U, Gage, Madam X and Covco presenting an explosive history of the future, plus a talk by political commentator and Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani about Fully Automated Luxury Communism, the night offers a glimpse at divergent futures of reigning chaos and post-capitalist utopia. Before his performance at Progress Bar, we spoke to the artist about juxtaposing sounds, his musical and artistic influences, and his approach to composition as a scrapbook of personal experiences.

Listen to City’s mix for AQNB below, featuring re-purposed audio scraps, as well as tracks from an upcoming solo EP and collaborations with i.o and v1984.

** I’m interested in the counterbalance between acoustic motifs and synthetic sound design that can be found in your music. Is there a deliberate negotiation of the two?

Will Ballantyne: It’s not a deliberate juxtaposition. I do love that sound, though, like an amplified acoustic guitar over the top of screeching electronics or whatever. A lot of the acoustic stuff is inspired by the music I listened to growing up, and then the sound-design elements are what producing in Ableton and using iPhone or YouTube field recordings as sample sources naturally lends itself to. I tend to gravitate towards the feeling of electronic interference or distortion acting as a kind of bed for a more true, acoustic motif to play on top of.

** The artwork for your Arcadia mix came courtesy of Jaakko Pallasvuo. How did your music and Jaakko’s artwork respond to each other?

WB: Jaakko posted it on one of his blogs a few years ago and I just had it sitting on my hard drive for a long time. I was super lucky getting that to be the artwork for the mix because I love that piece so much. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen harder for an artist’s body of work than I did for Jaakko’s. I discovered him after that Amnesia Scanner release where he did the poem, and the more I dug into his writing and comics and sculptures the more obsessed I got. His stuff is so beautiful and honest and sincere and delicate, I was extremely happy that he agreed to let me use that specific piece for the cover of Arcadia.

I take a lot of inspiration from what I perceive as a diaristic approach in Jaakko’s work. A lot of my samples, melodies, song titles, progressions, etc., are things that have been bouncing around my head for years and it’s a conscious process to incorporate them into my music so that I can try to present something that’s honest and fleshed out.

Courtesy City.

** Are there other artists you’d like to join forces with at some point?

WB: I deeply admire Lane Stewart and Collin Fletcher, so I was extremely happy that they did the artwork and design for my Halcyon LP. In my circles, I’m a huge fan of everyone in the Immunity and s.M.i.L.e. crews. Awe Ix is also an icon. I love this artist called Kentree Speirs from Vancouver, I used to walk past one of his huge paintings hanging in the window of a gallery every day to work and it blew me away every time. David Rappeneau is someone else I’m constantly amazed by. Ville Caillo and Joey Holder are also high up on my list.

** What was the central theme of A Goal is an Image? How did it expand on the ideas you had previously explored?

WB: A huge musical theme for me is anxious momentum. I don’t quite know how to explain it but it’s what I’m always trying to capture; this feeling of a kind of overwhelming inevitability, something inescapable and crushing. That’s the guiding principle behind my live shows as well. The artwork refers to some of the diaristic principles in my work. The picture framed in the centre is a picture I took on my phone that Lane and Collin found on my Twitter or something, and then Lane printed it and framed it and shot it so that it became part of a whole larger piece. It’s important to me to portray this beautiful naturalistic picture that also resonates with my personal experiences. Textually, the song titles contribute to a narrative alongside my other tracklists and releases that’s better left unsaid.

** Regarding your diaristic approach, seeing as diaries are often private records, how do you feel about exposing yourself in this way? For example, are there ever anxieties around publicising your work?

WB: I don’t consider my work diaristic in the sense that I’m revealing a personal narrative. Perhaps scrapbooking is a better comparison than diary-keeping. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, I actually really want people to piece together the recurring or thematically linked elements, from titles to certain sounds or musical themes.

** Your music seems to be based around principles of texture and abstract ornaments as opposed to more traditional musical parameters. Can you tell us about your methods of composition?

WB: A lot of the texture comes from experimenting within Ableton with field recordings that I either make on my phone or I get from YouTube. A lot of the time the rhythmic pulse of a song comes from those experiments. Then I’ll build something up harmonically or melodically, and that’ll usually be something that I’ve been playing on the guitar for a long time. Then I just listen to the skeleton of the piece over and over and over again, while I walk around, while I do chores, etc., and slowly add or subtract parts as necessary and then hammer it into some sort of affective, climactic structure. As far as anything principled with regards to composition, I’m mostly just trying to make something affective and durational, like an isolated riff that each song builds to. Every sound and part of each of my tracks is goal-oriented – they all contribute to the climax and the overall propulsion.

** Boomkat describes A Goal is an Image as taking “styles foreign to the putative club experience.” Do you purposefully set out to unsettle people’s experience of the club?

WB: Not at all! I think in a way it’s kinda disrespectful to try to mess with what people get out of clubs. I really haven’t spent a lot of time in clubs or club culture so I wouldn’t feel right attempting to mess with that mold. That being said, it’s only through the live shows I’ve played that I’ve realized that my stuff doesn’t really work in a club context. I’ve been kicked off the stage before; I was booked to go on at peak time in a busy club and I had no idea my music wasn’t going to work there. It should’ve been obvious to me though!

 ** Your Only Borders mix is about to be released as part of Ascetic House’s next batch of cassettes. What can we expect?

WB: That mix is part of the same series as Simulation Mix, Arcadia, and Guts for Garters ‘17. Basically a mix of original pieces and sketches that functions as a larger piece in and of itself. There is a lot of crossover between those mixes and A Goal is an Image; a lot of songs appear in two or three of those projects. The tracklists are basically entirely fictional and don’t relate to the songs that are inside. But music-wise it’s material from about a year or two ago, some stuff that I wrote during the process of writing A Goal is an Image. There are some germinal pieces that’ll be released in a more fleshed out way in a collaborative LP with an incredibly inspiring musician named i.o, hopefully next year.

** Are there any other particular trajectories you’d like to explore with your music in the future?

WB: I’m currently working on a live show with a lot of new material that’ll have me playing guitar for the duration. Conceptually, I’m not exploring new ground but I do feel like I’m honing my approach to my sound, and being able to control it a bit more finely. Anything that allows me to play at high volume out of huge speakers.**


City – Guts for Garters ‘17 

  1. Grief ‘17
  2. 77
  3. XX
  4. No Highway Too Long
  5. A.po.lo.gy (with i.o)
  6. I can’t recognize this
  7. Faith (with i.o)
  8. One day at a time
  9. Brutalist
  10. Can’t lose
  11. Fleeting Approximations of Parallel Phrases (with v1984)
  12. Mouth of the river
  13. Fatal flower (with i.o)


City will be performing at Amsterdam’s Progress Bar on December 2, 2017.

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A poisonous maiden in millennial pink for Jaakko Pallasvuo + Sorbus-curated group show R4pp4cc1n1’5 D4ugh73r

4 September 2017

The R4pp4cc1n1’5 D4ugh73r group exhibition was on at Helsinki’s Sorbus, opening August 12 and running to August 27.

Katja Novitskova, ‘Untitled’ (2017). Install view. Courtesy the artist + Sorbus, Helsinki

Curated by Sorbus and Jaakko Pallasvuo, the show included work by Katja NovitskovaMaya Ben David, Ville Kallio, Salla Tykkä, and Bora Akinciturk, as well as a performance by André Chapatte on the opening night and a guided meditation to close the exhibition by Emmi Venna.

The installation was accompanied by a press release drawing on the lyrics from the song ‘Human Fly’ by 70s band The Cramps, including “garbage brain /That’s drivin’ me insane,” as well as the show’s stylised webspeak reference to Rappaccini’s Daughter. In the 19th century short story — written by American novelist and dark romantic Nathaniel Hawthorne — the beautiful daughter of a reclusive scientist becomes resistant to the poisonous plants of her father’s making only to become poisonous herself. The purple and millennial pink junkspace of works strewn across the exhibition creates its own garden of contemporary hazards one can’t live without.**

The R4pp4cc1n1’5 D4ugh73r group exhibition was on at Helsinki’s Sorbus, running August 12 to 27, 2017.

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Thirty-two international video artists respond to new urgencies for CITIZENSFIVE at Art Athina

21 June 2017

The CITIZENSFIVE exhibition screening for the video sector of Art Athina was on at Athen’s Faliro Pavilion and ran May 26 to 28.

CITIZENSFIVE (2017). Installation view. Courtesy the artists, curator Alexander Burenkov + Art Athina, Athens.

Curated by Alexander Burenkov of Moscow’s ISSMAG gallery, the screening included work by 32 artists including Philipp Timischl, Christopher Kulendran Thomas & Annika Kulmann, Albert Soldatov, Manolis Daskalakis-LemosSasha LitvintsevaAlexey Vanushkin, MSL & Jaakko Pallasvuo,  Pakui Hardware, CORE PANBeny WagnerJacky Connolly, Elizaveta Chukhlantseva, Lawrence LekStephanie ComilangSara CulmanViktor TimofeevJesse McLeanEleni BagakiErica ScourtiBogdan AblozhnyyLouis Henderson,  Valinia SvoronouGraeme Arnfield, EKKE (Egor Kraft, Pekka Tynkkynen, Karina Goulbenko, Alina Kvirkveliya), Patrick Staff,  Egle Kulbokaite & Dorota GawedaFelix Kalmenson, Jasper Spicero and Hannah Perry.

Designed as a hotel room, the screening brought together an international range of artists under the curatorial premise “governed by both post-truth politics and sharing economy, the new urgencies of migration and resettlement as well as the changing concepts of citizenship and nationality and related to it new forms of anxieties restructuring our lives.”

Visit Alexander Burenkov‘s website for details.**

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Forty hours at sea in Cruising part two in Stockholm, Apr 7 – 14

4 April 2017

The Cruising group exhibition is on at Julia Eriksson’s apartment in Stockholm, opening April 7  to 14.

Hosted by Eriksson and Daniel Iinatti, the show brings together the work of 13 artists including Jaakko Pallasvuo + Marja-Oksa Pallasvuo, Dorota Gawęda + Eglė KulbokaitėAnna UddenbergSteven Warwick and Zoe Barcza, among others.

The first part of the exhibition took place on board the M/S Mariella cruise ship in March of this year, travelling from Stockholm to Helsinki. The forty-hour journey gave artists the time and space to explore “the feeling of being at sea, being on board, being trapped or being free” and the work is now being shown with Eriksson’s private collection in her apartment.

The after party will be at Stockholm’s Morfar Ginko and will feature performances by Kablam, Blahnix and more.

See the Facebook event page for details.**

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Studio practice in progress at How to be being at Super Dakota, Feb 23 – Apr 8

22 February 2017

The How to be being film program is on at Brussels’ Super Dakota, opening February 23 and running to April 8.

Co-conceived with Alex Clarke, the event features three films by Gareth Long showing ‘Work in Progress’ (2010), Jaakko Pallasvuo‘s ‘Blue’ (2016) and Elsa-Louise Manceaux & Balthazar Berling‘s ‘Debouts, Salis, Cernés’ (2017).

How to be being is part of larger series of shows of the same name on studio practice, which opened January 12 and is also running until April 8. In addition, Clarke is also exhibiting solo show This Happened To Me, which also opens on February 23 and runs to April 8.

See the Super Dakota webiste for details**

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Polyphonic POV’s in subjectivized art at MoMAW’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Intimacy as Text, Jan 26 – Apr 2

25 January 2017

The Ministry of Internal Affairs. Intimacy as Text group exhibition is on at Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMAW), opening on January 26 and running to April 2.

Curated by Natalia Sielewicz — also responsible for 2014’s great Private Settings exhibition — the show features over 20 artists, all at different stages of their careers, including Hannah BlackDorota Gawęda + Eglė KulbokaitėChris KrausJaakko PallasvuoMegan RooneySteve RoggenbuckAgnieszka Polska, and Amalia Ulman among others.

The exhibition promises to showcase “a polyphony of voices in poetry and visual arts whose common mode of expression is a first-person narrative and a confessional character of statements, while self-representation in language becomes a discursive practice of reflection and questioning and struggle for the artist’s subjectivity.”

See the MoMAW website for more details.**

Dorota Gaweda + Egle Kulbokakaite, ‘SHE, A SKELETON’ (2015). Install view. Courtesy SNOlab.




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The Adventures of You (2016) exhibition photos

16 January 2017

The Adventures of You group exhibition at Paris’ The Community opened on December 3 and ran until January 13. 

The show featured work by Jaakko Pallasvuo, Arnar Ásgeirsson, Hanne Jurmu & Anton Vartiainen and The Community’s Lance the Psychic & jasonknudsen414.

‘The Adventures of You’, (2016/17). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + The Community, Paris.

Curated by Paris-based collective The Community, the exhibition is a mix of sculpture, print, drawing clothes and audio exploring the individual’s ability to make and is structured through Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. The epic poem starts from a paradise lost and through different metamorphoses ends up in an era in which despair and darkness reign with never-ending speculations about the future. The artworks in the exhibition address at the same time symbols of security and continuous threat, and get intertwined in the layout of the space, while mythologies join the contemporary discourse in its scenario.**


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Memory (2016) exhibition photos

8 November 2016

The Memory group exhibition at Stockholm’s Loyal Gallery ran from September 1 until October 8, 2016.

Curated by Daniel Iinatti, the multi-media installation of painting and sculpture featured work by Ivana Basic, Duda Bebek, Alfred Boman, Viktor Fordell, Dorota Gaweda, Tilman Hornig, Egle Kulbokaite, Jaakko Pallasvuo and Emelie Sandström.

Duda Bebek, Frida (2016). Installation view. Photo by Ari King. Courtesy the artist and LOYAL, Stockholm
Duda Bebek, Frida (2016). Installation view. Photo by Ari King. Courtesy the artist and LOYAL, Stockholm

The show was centred around a text in the press release that looked at Memory through the body of a retired old man, finding peace among chaos:

“His loved ones have passed away and he spends his days organizing his belongings over and over, recreating the memories of his younger hippie days. Main interests include medievalism, skin care, jewelry, listening to trance compilations, meditation, botanics.”**

The Memory group exhibition was on at Stockholm’s Loyal Gallery running from September 1 until October 8, 2016.

Header image: Alfred Boman + Jaakko Pallasvuo in Memory (2016). Installation view. Photo by Ari King. Courtesy the artists + LOYAL, Stockholm.

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aqnb x Video in Common @ 3hd Festival, Oct 12

29 September 2016

As part of this year’s 3hd Festival programme, AQNB and Video in Common (ViC) are presenting screening, performance and discussion event, ‘Staying Present’ at Berlin’s Vierte Welt on October 12.

In referring to the title of this year’s festival topic ‘There is nothing left but the future?’ AQNB focuses on the question mark, interrogating what we actually mean by ‘the future’ and whether the past has a role in determining it: What do we gain from thinking about the future in terms of the past? And is the very notion of the future itself little more than an ideological and conceptual fallacy?

The ‘Staying Present’ program presents artists, musicians and ideas that draw on convention and tradition to comment on the contemporary condition. Artists featured in this edition include an AQNB/ViC editorial video with Klein, video and sound works from Jaakko Pallasvuo, Maxwell Sterling, Institute for New Feeling, Gary FembotEaster as well as a live Skype psychic reading from Martha Windahl.

‘Staying Present’ follows a series of events organised by the art editorial platform and video production partner ViC in London, and Los Angeles –two other key cultural centres in the AQNB network. Titled ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’, ‘At the Backend’ and ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’.

See the FB event page for details.**

Header image: Jaakko Pallasvuo, ‘Castling’ (2016). Video still. Courtesy the artist.

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