Born from a creative renewal after months of stagnancy in the studio, and influenced by the discovery that he was going to be a father, Trentemøller’s Obverse is a project built from passion and appreciation for the greatness of music within all of life’s challenges and changes. An atmospheric, dreamy synth-based blend of experimental soundscapes which showcases Trentemøller’s adeptness at creating emotional journeys, each connecting track expresses a piece of himself and tells a part of his story.
“Every album is like a snapshot of where I am in my life. It’s really hard to point out specific things happening in my life, it’s much more an overall feeling and it’s more about the atmosphere and the vibe going on, so I think all my music reflects different parts of me. I’m very often being told that my music is very dark, and melancholic but personally I’m a quite happy boy!”
I can certainly attest to this; in speaking with Trentemøller his light-heartedness radiated throughout the conversation, the embodiment of joy evident in his words. Perhaps it may seem like a contradiction to the heaviness expressed through his music, but as he shares, the music allows him to find a balance between the dark and light:
“I think that I use the music as an output to get some of the more darker feelings out so I can actually be a quite normal human being. Music for me is a really, really nice platform for expressing my feelings, it’s much more easy for me rather than writing it down or painting or doing something else. Music somehow also really talks directly to your heart. It’s a little bit similar to if you suddenly smell something and you’re instantly back to your grandmother’s kitchen and you can remember that smell from your childhood. Something like that. I think music has the same qualities in a way. We are always going through our intellect but this is more pure to the heart. That’s also the amazing thing about instrumental music where you don’t have any lyrics to dictate what the music is about, but you can create your own inner pictures.”
Music as a means for expressing his feelings has been an important part of Trentemøller’s life since he was young, his influences from his teenage years helping shape his identity and inspire him to find his own voice.
“I think that has always been my help in a way, I really felt like a bit of an outsider when I was younger and you know, going to my own little musical world was really like having this… invisible friend that you could always trust, and always go to.
I also think that it’s maybe something that people can hear in my music, that there are also references to music that I listened to when I was a teenager, when I grew up, all the new wave and post-punk rock stuff. Even if it’s quite electronic, this album, there are definitely some influences by some of the music that I listened to back then, when I was trying to find myself, trying to find my own identity. I think the music that you listened to as a teenager kind of sticks with you all your life.”
Even as important as music has been in Trentemøller’s life, the accumulation of awards and accolades, world tours, industry recognition and successes evidence of his dedication and talent, when it came time to get into the studio for Obverse, he was afraid he had lost it all.
“Definitely the most challenging thing was for the first 5 or 6 months after we came back from our last tour I was totally having this kind of block, so I went to the studio everyday trying to do music, and it just didn’t really sound right… and I think it wasn’t good enough, actually. So that was pretty hard because I really tried to make new music because I really wanted it, and I had a lot of ideas, but when I went into my studio it just didn’t sound right. So after 5 months I was a bit panicky, I was thinking ‘Oh god, have I lost it? Can I do music anymore?’
So I actually took a break from the studio and went to Sweden with my girlfriend just for a holiday, we rented this little cabin in the woods and we just stayed there for two weeks. It was really great because there were no telephones and no internet because the connection was so bad there, so it was really isolating you. But I also brought my laptop and some keyboards and my girlfriend had a guitar so I slowly started, after one week without doing any music, I slowly started having ideas. And then when we went back to Copenhagen after our holiday, suddenly there was this breakthrough. I think that I wrote 2 or 3 songs in two weeks for the album because suddenly I got this kind of childish joy of making music again that was back because I didn’t think about making music actually, so the pressure was suddenly gone, and that was really really nice to finally get a breakthrough.”
It’s with refreshing honesty and humility that Trentemøller provides priceless advice for those who find themselves facing the same challenges:
“If you are really trying hard, sometimes things won’t really work, so I think it’s of course very much a mental thing that somehow when you kind of just let go and actually do other stuff, and try not to focus on it, then suddenly the inspiration hits you. For me, it really worked to just take that two week break off and not be sitting in the studio watching all my synthesizers and outboard gear just laughing at me because I couldn’t use it!”
Fortunately he was able to find that place of surrender which allowed the creative spirit, the childlike passion, to return to him in the studio and result in Obverse. As the album was developing a new development arrived which shaped its direction, and the focus became on making this a purely studio album rather than one designed for a live experience. He tells us why he made this important decision:
“For me, this actually came up because half way through my working process with this album my girlfriend and I found out we were going to be parents. I had a son about 6 weeks ago, so that was pretty crazy. Really fantastic. So I also decided that I didn’t want to go on yet another world tour, sitting in a tour bus for many many many days. I can remember when we played the last album we were playing more than 120 shows in one year, and that was only the shows, then you had all the off days and traveling. I didn’t really want to do that this time, because the baby came and the album is coming out now, so two babies at the same time, so I simply decided just to not play this album live at all. And then hopefully I can start on my next album a little bit faster this time because normally our world tour takes like 1 or 2 years and then I cannot really write new music, so hopefully I can get some more time. I don’t know because I’m also really curious to see how this new family life will be. Right now I’m not getting that much sleep, so it’s definitely a challenge right now, but I think that you just have to find your own way and maybe you are more productive when you finally hit the studio because you have only 4 or 5 hours before it’s back to baby stuff.”
Now that one baby is here, the other is almost ready to be released to the world, something which Trentemøller has been waiting for for 7 months. It’s not his favorite part of the process as he endures vinyl pressing, promo, and the workings of the industry, keeping him from moving to the next part of his journey.
“I’m really looking forward, finally, to have the album out because it’s funny… I can’t really start on something new until the album’s out and that’s a pure psychological thing but it’s more like ‘I need this out of my system’ and the only way is by the record release.”
Although it will be a relief, he still find himself being nervous about the moment it’s revealed.
“It is something that still feels a little bit strange because your newest album is almost like your little baby and suddenly you are giving it away to people to listen to, and that’s of course fantastic and I’m really grateful that people want to listen to my music, but it’s still quite personal in a way also, because I’m always doing my albums all by myself. Working a little bit with vocalists, but 80% of the album is just by myself so I’m always a bit nervous when the record is coming out, that people can understand the music and if they’ll like it and if they don’t like it, so often I try not to read the reviews and hopefully there are some good ones.”
Already recommended on Billboard’s Dance Fall 2019 Music Guide and featured as the Disc of the Day on ArtsDesk, the industry has taken note of Trentemøller’s long-awaited album release. With special guest vocals by Rachel Goswell from Slowdive, Jenny Lee from War Paint as well as his girlfriend who appeared on two songs, the album has become a moving mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks which represent years of trials and triumphs. After months of anticipation, now it’s finally time to reveal Obverse to the world.
Obverse will be released September 27th on In The Room