One of Ultimae Records‘ most admired artists, a high-tech sound designer and multi-instrumentalist, and a true master of ambient, downtempo electronica and progressive trance; Magnus Birgersson aka Solar Fields is back with his twelfth album: Origin # 02—a diverse yet coherent retrospective journey through previously unreleased tracks composed between 2003 and 2009. All the tracks were mixed and reassembled by Birgersson in 2012 at Studio Jupiter. Igloo Magazine’s Nocturnal Ghost had the pleasure of asking this prolific talent a few questions, and also happy to give you an exclusive album taste from Origin # 02. Read further for secrets from Studio Jupiter and listen to one of the latest audio delicacies that came out of there.
Nocturnal Ghost / Igloo Magazine :: Hey there Magnus. For those of our readers who haven’t come across you and your music, please tell us a little bit about yourself and how, when and why the Solar Fields project came to life?
Magnus :: Hello there :) …So yes my name is Magnus Birgersson and I live in Gothenburg, Sweden. I’m getting older, I like to drink coffee and now I’m releasing my twelfth solo album as Solar Fields. I’ve been composing electronic music since the 80s and in the late 90s I formed the Solar Fields project. I released a first track under this moniker in 2000 on Fahrenheit Project Part One and been busy with that since then, getting my music released on various labels such as Interchill, AP Records, 3D Vision, Lobogistic Lab, Digital Oracle, Ultimae… As to the why, simply because that’s what I do, what I love, the way I live.
Magnus :: During these many years I’ve been composing an incredible amount of tracks, some more finished than others. I save everything I work on, even if is just a 10 seconds loop of jamming, and one day I decided to go through all my old hard drives, CD/DVD backups, booting up old computers that were collecting dust and found out that I had something to work with there. It was then that the idea of the Origin Series started. I planned four albums in total. When I compose a “normal” album I fully focus on that and create everything in the moment, so in between my albums I also make music and those tracks go to the Origin Series.
“I am passionate about hardware, and Studio Jupiter is full of machines. It’s a living museum of synthesis”
Igloo :: How was it to go back to all those older tracks and reassemble them? I’m sure it conjured all kinds of memories and experiences, tell us a bit about them and about your development as an artist during 2003-2012.
Magnus :: It has been great fun, and yes a lot of memories came up. For example the “Active Sky” track I remember playing to Vince (AES Dana) when we were working on the first H.U.V.A Network album here in Sweden in 2003. Since I record everything in audio when I work it’s very easy to open up old projects; mot files in a project are named after the machines I used for them and that brings back memories of synthesizers I used at the time I composed that specific track. I am passionate about hardware, and Studio Jupiter is full of machines. It’s a living museum of synthesis. Sometimes I change the scenery, buy new tools, sell some. The studio itself changed locations during this period of time, other souvenirs come to mind…
“Active Sky ( Origin 2003 )” from Origin # 02 (Ultimae, March 2013)
Igloo :: On your latest ambient electronica opus, Until we meet the sky, one can hear some shoegaze influences among others. What are your musical influences and what have you been listening to recently?
Magnus :: I’m listening to all kinds of music, I guess electronic music is what I listen to the least, since I work every day with this kind of sounds it is very nice to hear something different during the non-working time. Currently listening to Tool’s discography again. Great piece of band and fantastic musicians. Also enjoy different radio stations specially for ambient music, like di.fm and soma.fm which has some great channels, Radio Ultimae and Fluid Radio is also playing nicely sounding creations. I like surprises when I listen to music so that medium is perfect for that, you never know what will play next, and a good source do discover new music.
Igloo :: It seems that in recent years you are drifting back and forth between ambient / downtempo electronica and progressive trance. What are people going to hear on Origin # 02?
Magnus :: I don’t like to categorize my music in terms of genres, for me its electronic music. I don’t make any difference between my ambient / downtempo and my uptempo compositions. It’s music with a different feeling. But I understand your point of view. Origin # 02 is an album with a lot of variations since it’s music from different times but still staying on the same path, we can call it ambient / downtempo. :)
Igloo :: Tell us a bit about Studio Jupiter and your working process in there.
Magnus :: My studio is the heart of everything. It’s been an ongoing project since the 80s. It’s a well-balanced set-up with analog and digital equipment. Everything is connected to each other so it’s basically one big modular setup with different machines and that’s the fundamental idea with my studio. Everything is connected to each other so one synthesizer is a little module of the whole thing. With some buttons I can easily route the signal path as I want it, so if I want to use my old lo-fi Casio VL-1 as the source and use the Korg MS-20 as a filter and end up in the Kyma system for effect processing, it’s very simple. This is the way I like to work, it’s when unexpected things happen that creativity starts to flow. I have a good collection of different string instruments like bass, acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, sitar, balalajka. Since I’ve been playing guitar for a long time I also tend to jam out ideas on it.
“I do think it is very important to get a physical object that you can touch and feel, CD and vinyl are such great things for this and if done correctly can be a piece of art.”
Igloo :: Tell us about a piece of equipment or instrument that you really like in your studio.
Magnus :: Actually I enjoy everything as it is now :) …I’ve been sorting out stuff in the studio that I don’t tend to use and just keep the things I work with so I don’t get distracted. Right now I think my Gibson and the ebow through the Moog and a massive reverb is something I enjoy to the maximum. Also my Kyma system is a big source of inspiration, everything can happen when I start to work with that. A new great little thing I got is the Teenage Engineering OP-1, a perfect little machine for inspiration, I always have it with me when out traveling and it has a steady place in the studio setup.
Igloo :: As a music lover and collector I love CDs and I love buying them. I truly believe in the album listening experience (alone or with other people, at home or somewhere else, listening from start to finish). In these times of digital and downloading madness, when it’s all about iPods and file sharing and stuff, what do you think about CDs and vinyls and the album listening experience?
Magnus :: I do think it is very important to get a physical object that you can touch and feel, CD and vinyl are such great things for this and if done correctly can be a piece of art. But we are in the digital era and this how it is now, keep in mind that the CD is 30+ years old and started to feel outdated but still it’s very nice to have a physical object when purchasing something. Personally I do prefer to keep my music as files so I can listen to whatever I want whenever I feel like it. Also stream services like Spotify are excellent and we see this happening in the film businesses now also. The CD will exist for some more years as long as people support it, but with major labels starting to cut down on the physical releases, the smaller labels will be affected with a rise of manufacturing costs. When I listen to an album I always do it from the start to the end to capture the story and the thoughts behind it.
Igloo :: Tell us about your relationship with Ultimae and the benefits of having such a special label behind you
Magnus :: It’s been a 13 years relationship with by far the most reliable label that I’ve been working with. I know that I can trust them in everything and this is the reason I still work with them.
Igloo :: Please tell us about your future plans for 2013. Where and when can we catch you performing live? Is there another album on the way or tracks for compilations, or collaborative work maybe?
Magnus :: Origin # 02 is getting released this month so I need to take some time off for a short while now. I will do a couple of self-releases later on this year including some EP’s and remix album. Also the third T.S.R album (with Daniel Segerstad and Johannes Hedberg of Carbon Based Lifeforms) is on the very good way, just some mini tweaks left. I also have a new project that will get born quite soon when I start to feel that I have the time for it. It will be a more darker guitar oriented atmospheric sounding music. Still working on the live schedule for the spring and summer but so far it looks like there will be gigs in Europe, Russia, Canada and USA.
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