S K Y L I G H T
January 26, 2018
Skylight is Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels' fourth full-length album under the moniker Elskavon.
Elskavon's 4th LP, and the first in over 3 years. Every single song is inspired by a memorable moment in my life - some huge moments, like the birth of my child; some smaller, like the tranquility of exploring the woods with my best friend years ago.
I really believe memorable moments that we relive over and again are so incredibly valuable, and reminders to not miss the potential in the making now - these are gifts we can never fully get back, so really living these moments is important.
I embraced imperfections and made a point to step outside my comfort zone in the studio with this album. From hearing the wood floor creak in piano recordings while my family walked around upstairs, sampling in washing machines sounds via iPad, sending synths and vocals out to guitar pedals, recording unplugged electric pianos, or using my body as drum triggers, each song was created in a unique way.
This is Skylight.
Reveal is the third album from Elskavon, the ambient project of Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels. It is also the second installment of a double album, the follow-up to 2013's Release.
The contrast and growth of the sound from Release to Reveal is certainly intentional. This is the first Elskavon album that introduces drums and percussion, and touches on a more ethereal post-rock style, while still behind an ambient wash.
Most of the Elskavon albums are written and recorded by Chris alone in the studio, but he sought out some collaboration this time around. Bjorn Nilsen, good friend and Bora York bandmate of Chris', recorded acoustic drums for "Imprints," "Letting Go" and "April Rain."
Another aspect of collaboration, the album artwork was again a photo by Anton Novoselov. Anton's photos have been used for both Release and Reveal, and the transition from night to day in these photos coincides with the musical style progression.
While Chris finds inspiration for these songs from many aspects and facets of life, the root love of making music for him comes down to one question. Are you alive?
Are you living each day alive, free, passionate? Enjoying the passing moments while also living in anticipation for something greater? Are you living for something greater than yourself?
Are you living each day in an identity that gives you life or an identity that tears you down?
Important questions. Not always easy questions to ask ourselves. But important.
Creating is obviously a part of Chris' identity, and obviously part of what makes him alive. His hope is that the music is an inspiration to anyone who hears it. Don't waste time. Live for something greater than yourself. Find your real identity, one that brings you life.
Release your imagination. So it can Reveal your identity.
Release is the second album from Elskavon, the ambient moniker of Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels. This collection of songs continues on the path where the late 2012 debut album Movements In Season ended, with large, lush atmospheres and open textures.
Ambient music has always been able to create opportunities for listeners to interpret emotions in a variety of ways, and any one song can mean something so different from one set of ears to the next. For Chris, inspiration for these songs arrives in a similar fashion. It comes from all sorts of angles - love and friendship, hope and doubt, life and death.
Residents of Minnesota know the drastic difference of the four calendar seasons all too well. Summer in the “land of 10,000 lakes” is overwhelmingly beautiful, while winter is, to say the least, frigid. While certainly bound to be diverse in interpretation, Release was originally inspired by the many Minnesota winters Chris has experienced. It is the first of a double album. A ‘spring’ version will follow, after a predictably chilled few months.
The album opens with the expansive, airy four-and-a-half minute crescendo titled “We Can All Be New.” The listener is encouraged to become lost in the grand calm of spacious vocals, guitars, and sampled atmospheres. This leads to an immediate transition with the second track, “Small Hands,” which was written in anticipation of Chris’ and his wife’s first child, who will join them in the spring. The simple piano piece is reminiscent of any number of calming neo-classical songs or minimalist film scores.
Containing three less songs than the debut Movements In Season yet nearly the same length as a whole, Release exercies a bit more open space, minimalism, and droning techniques.
Whatever the interpretation, whatever the emotions evoked, whatever the meaning perceived, listeners are encouraged to allow Elskavon's Release to become a soundtrack to the freedom of letting go and the beauty of holding on.
Perhaps to its perennial advantage, the ambient instrumental project Elskavon was not born on any specific date, but rather organically as an aspiration of Minneapolis native Chris Bartels sometime as early as 2007. Over the course of five years, Elskavon was most often a low priority, albeit never forgotten.
Intertwined with, and most assuredley inspired by, the many seasons of life he experienced - separate musical ventures, school, traveling, getting married - Chris composed and recorded a fairly ample collection of Elskavon songs over these five years. Created in his bedroom on late nights, these songs were often an escape from the steady quarrel of life. They, in turn, would be only demos, but planted the seeds for a future album.
It was not until the early fall of 2012 that Elskavon finally became a real priority. Rather than attempt to resurrect and refine aged and scattered material, Chris started from scratch, writing and recording a full length album in the matter of a few weeks. It was a passionate pursuit to invoke that feeling of peaceful escape that drove the inception of Elskavon’s debut Movements In Season.
The album fuses acoustic instruments with electronic elements to create a bond of sonic landscapes and formed songwriting. Chris recorded piano, acoustic and electric guitar layers, samplers, synthesizers, and more. He also experimented with implementing everday items and utilities, such as a pack of batteries, a bag of rice, or the sound of a running sink. Mixing all this with careful yet aggressive use of dynamics, delays, and filters, Movements In Season fashions a sensation of peaceful intensity.
It was Chris’ interest for classical pieces with captivating twists of modernism and minimalism that kept the project of Elskavon alive over the years, and a love for soaking sonic ambience that most intently drove the creation and conclusion of the album. The hope was that Movements In Season would drench the listener in wonderment, peace, and occasionally, when everything falls into place just right, a gentle sense of awe.
P R E S S
"Release is a serene and lovely record catering to a very pure ambient aesthetic."
"This mournful track, "Five Years," is the closing number on Elskavon's recent record, Movements In Season, and the gorgeously retro video perfectly compliments the somber, stirring nature of the track itself."
"Acoustic and electronic blend together to create soundscapes that are warm and organic, yet spacious and dreamlike."
"Release is a rather lovely ambient/modern classical album from Elskavon that will appeal to fans of Goldmund, Olafur Arnalds and possibly Hauschka."
"[Imprints] possesses ethereal choruses and a mood that reminds you of Valtari, Sigur Ros' most ambient/dream-pop sounding LP."
D O W N L O A D S
"It's soulfully crafted, funk-inspired, and an absolute blast to groove to."
- The Music Ninja
While they live in a land famous for frigid weather, husband-and-wife-fronted five-piece Bora York’s music is undoubtedly summer-esque. Their first new song since debut album Dreaming Free is "Let Loose," and takes their sound to a new direction - tighter, funkier, and dancier, all while maintaining the ethereal dream-pop feel of the first album. Creating a stir in their hometown of Minneapolis and online, it served as the birth of a second album, Secret Youth, that was written by frontman Chris Bartels from a different perspective - through the lens of what had been exciting from their live shows.
"The Way You Groove" and "Arrest Me" further expand on the climate of Secret Youth's first single, melding the danceability of "Let Loose" with fresh layers of vintage synths and memorable falsetto hooks. While the influence of a variety of 80's synth pop is clear throughout, it's the full-on funk breakdown halfway through "Arrest Me" that points to the influence of the classic Minneapolis funk sound.
Recording a large amount of their songs in Chris and Rebekah Bartels' humble 2-bedroom apartment, not to mention with the company of their newborn son, Bora York is all about working with what you've got. While this lends to an organic feel, the polished production is still undeniably impressive. Brian Seidel (vocals, guitar, keys), Bjorn Nilsen (drums), and Jamie) Kauppi (bass) join Chris and Rebekah to complete the outfit, and have helped shape the sound of both albums, and also in creating an exciting live experience. The entire production and release process was done independently through Chris' own Anthem Falls Music, releasing July 21, 2015.
Each Bora York song gives the impression that Chris is drawing from memories of his past, and yet those memories feel strikingly familiar, as if from a shared past that every person has experienced at some point in their life. Secret Youth is a danceable ode to young love, perseverance, and nostalgia.
P R E S S
"Summertime radness" - Neon Gold Records
"It's impossible not to get swept up in the excitement." - Indie Shuffle
"Quickly escalating into a full on good time, The Way You Groove is a breakout party for Bora York." - Earmilk
"Something we can all get behind." - All Things Go
"Soulfully crafted, funk-inspired, and an absolute blast to groove to." - The Music Ninja
L I C E N S I N G A N D P L A C E M E N T S
Bora York's music is available for license. Past placements and clients include ABC, MTV, Oxygen, Buick, GMC, Citibank, Leaf TV, Michael Kors, and more. Visit anthemfallsmusic.com/reel to see Chris Bartels' composing work and for more information on licensing.
D O W N L O A D S
PRO-ONE VINTAGE SYNTH JAM:
OCEAN LOVE LIVE:
Blending electronica with smooth ambient surfaces, married to spacious, processed vocals in a unique groove-driven sound, Hi-Fi cali was birthed by Minneapolis composer and producer Chris Bartels in the summer of 2014 as an exploration of writing electronic music without a set of rules.
Hi-Fi Cali was born out of rough sketches and basic groove-beat ideas. Synthesizers, digital claps, drum machines, and sidechaining is the bottom line for these songs. With an album in the works, Chris, along with drummer and samplist Bjorn Nilsen, have not only used the material to develop and create a unique and engaging live experience, but are also laying out a small lot of evidence that dance music does not have to be predictable.
P R E S S
"[Soulmates] is absolutely perfect for fans of electropop favorites Chromeo, Bag Radiers, Holy Ghost!, and even Toro y Moi. Let's hope their hot sound can get them through those cold winters in Minnesota. Don't freeze please - we want to hear more." - The Music Ninja
"Galactic dreamscape of swirling electronic bleeps, beats and keys, punctuated with hypnotic vocals." - Chart Shaker
"Fun, experimental electro-pop" - All Things Go
D O W N L O A D S
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M Y T H S A N D M O L D
Chris Bartels is a producer, musician, husband, and father from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has spent hours upon hours of his life crafting textures, melodies, emotions, soundscapes, and stories through music.
Bartels’ musical obsessions are varied, plentiful, and often. From the oceanic sounds of ambient project Elskavon, to the synth-driven dream pop of Bora York, to the moody dance songs of Hi-Fi Cali, there’s always another string of albums in the works.
Myths and Mold is the second official release under his own name. As a whole, the 5-song album delves into unique song structures previously unexplored by his former songs and projects. There was no initial direction Bartels had in mind when he first started writing what would become “Missoula,” and the starts of other songs. It was simply an escape from the task of songwriting the highly produced sound of a sophomore Bora York album. This was all about layers of drums and plenty of percussion, heavy emphasis on room microphones, different feels of guitar, and even more layers of vocals, including lower registers than before. Careful not to place boundaries, however, Bartels, along with the mixing finesse and co-songwriting of Taylor Lewin, would not shy away from things that felt right, whether that was a synth bass line or a rich mess of delay effects.
This is a collection of songs that go neither with nor against the grain. It’s not territory completely unfamiliar, and it’s not something identifiable. These songs are personal, albeit abstract, and were birthed during a season of life that merged gratitude and trial, solitude and struggle.
Myths and Mold is available now:
P R E S S
"Experimental, soulful, and dynamic... He departs from stricter musical boundaries to a sphere ruled only by imagination" - Indie Shuffle
"Blind is a powerful song, both in sound and message." - All Things Go
V I T A M I N J U N E
Without risk, without elusiveness, music would no longer excite us. From a surface level, everything has been done before, and has been done over and over. But it’s risk that keeps us coming back, giving new music a chance.
Vitamin June is a project of risk.
Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels has set out with no concrete intentions in place with Vitamin June. With his other current projects, Bora York and Elskavon, structures and soudscapes and song forms were heavy and intentional aspects of songwriting. While details are still a time-consuming offering with these new batch of songs, Bartels has not let caution become an important voice.
Drawing inspiration from many different areas of electronic, minimalist, ambient, noise, and glitch music, these songs have taken on a persona all on their own. The project started out as a sparatic late-night escape for Bartels, and quickly turned into a genuine interest. Sounds are borrowed from a slew of synthesizers, samplers, and captured audio from everyday life. Aggressive delays, filters, and other processing methods then helped create the final product.