EP Walkthrough: Willaris. K guides us through his new EP, LUSTRE
On the first of two EPs to arrive this year, the Melbourne-based heavyweight contrasts lightness with something far darker.
At the forefront of Willaris. K's work is always a sense of contrast. Over the years, the now-Melbourne-based musician has emerged a flag-bearing name in Australian electronica; his knack for uniting the worlds of industrial techno and ambient electronica - often within the span of four-minutes - making him a prevalent new force not just in Australia, but internationally too. From his debut EP - the 2018-released spiralling epic Alchemy - right through to now, Willaris. K's craft has always been one step ahead the rest, and it's been a brilliant journey seeing his sudden rise in a tightly-packed electronic world already.
A reason why we're often saw drawn to Willaris.' work is this sense of contrast, and it's something that's been prevalent through much of his work since the beginning. On his debut EP, the thrilling rush of songs like Alchemy were placed alongside moments more gentle and stripped-back, the title track's Reprise, for example, taking the foundations of the song that came before it and moving it into a slow-burning three-minutes that moves and warps with an almost uplifting twist without hitting the full mania of Alchemy.
His new EP LUSTRE, the first of two EPs to arrive this year with another scheduled for May 29th, has this intricate contrast and versatility at its more potent, albeit at a level that feels slightly richer - more mature, maybe - than his debut. Throughout its six tracks, LUSTRE navigates the twisting highs and lows of Willaris. K's production skillset, layering the peaks - the gradually-building complexities of the warping 5 O'CLOCK - with more subdued lows that offer a sense of relief between the thickness that often lays either side.
Where LUSTRE shines, however, is in courage and boldness. Songs like the Floating Points-esque COBAKI SKY and the twinkling DETACH feature Willaris. K at his characteristically best, but tracks like GET WITH MY LIGHT and INDIFFERENT are highlights in other ways, executed in a way that Willaris. K could always do, but never attempted in the public eye. The former sees No Mono's Tom Snowdon guide through swelling ambience with his comforting vocal as a torch; the intricate intimacy of Willaris' sprawling productions fleshed out into a full-length, indulgent affair.
INDIFFERENT, meanwhile, is a somewhat monumental moment for Willaris. K. Featuring Gordi, it's a single that encapsulates this sense of versatility and melodic richness spread across the EP, with Gordi's powerfully longing vocal being the first to feature on a Willaris. K production, or at least the first to be officially released. Songs like INDIFFERENT have the rushing techno and thick, experimental ambience of Willaris. K's past work notably absent, but they also prove that his work can be just as impactful without it, and that the producer is capable of carving sounds that don't always have to whiplash-giving maximalism.
"LUSTRE captures the freedom and euphoria that comes with making music everyday and playing live shows," he says on the EP, with that aforementioned sense of euphoria sweeping through the EP's many chords and rhythms. "It also captures the hardships and changes I experienced over that time."
Before the arrival of Willaris. K's second EP of 2020, Full Noise, arrives on May 29th, dive into LUSTRE below with an EP walkthrough from the man himself, breaking down the release's complexities, themes and creation one song at a time:
I started this on the Wednesday of my final week as an electrician in April 2017. All I had was the raw iPhone voice memo recordings of the intro chords and top lead of the last section. It was the first song I started off LUSTRE, it started as 2 separate ideas (the opening piano part and the rest) that I eventually morphed together after I recorded a random synth take on my friend Liam's prophet 08, that ended up becoming the main lead/arp throughout. That was the first and only time that's ever happened, a raw recording straight to audio that I ended up using on a song reasonably untouched. As soon as I wrote it I knew it was going to be the opening track for whatever was coming after Alchemy.
GET WITH MY LIGHT (with Tom Snowdon)
This also began at my house in Tweed Heads in 2017. I remember vividly the day I made it, I had this loop going that I fell in love with (the pads, lead piano line), originally it had some breakbeat-y drums on it but everyone I showed said it reminded them of Moby (too much) so I deleted them and it became an ambient track. It stayed in this form for a while, I'd always play it in the live show then lead into Risen, it was always such a nice moment. Then one day I made an idea (completely different song) and was showing my housemate Nick saying I want to get someone to sing on it, he suggested Tom, I hit him up and a couple of weeks later he came round. We'd never met before but we hit it off and have since made a bunch of shit I'm really into.
Anyway, we were planning on working on this other idea but as we were setting up I just started playing this in the background and Tom started singing some random vocal melodies, "warming up" he said. I jumped straight in and we recorded a bunch of shit first go and it's pretty close to what it is now. A few months later we re-recorded the vocals with Tom Iansek (I have a shit mic and you could hear trams in the background of the demo) and here we are.
This one went through many many forms. It started with George Nicholas (friend/mixer/collaborator), we were listening back to Natural Selection to see if there was anything left to do from my side before he went in on the mixing. We started fucking around with the main lead from Natural Selection (pitched it down/looped a bit) and it sounded SICK. That became the main syncopated lead thing in Cobaki Sky.
We left it there and eventually I went back in, grabbed that loop and built all this other stuff around it (bass, ambience, piano line etc) which is where the Prequel came from. A lot of the time when I'm writing, drums come after the melodic ideas so I can be torn on whether to fill it out or let it be. This one sounded so good to me both ways so I decided to pursue a full version with drums.
INDIFFERENT (with Gordi)
Another one that I started at a piano lesson living in Tweed. It was a time when I was experimenting with ideas for film and also exploring the more vulnerable side of the project (while having a bit of restraint and not launching like usual). I sat with it for a while as an ambient piece and eventually I met Sophie and we bonded over ambient tracks we were into, I showed her the Indifferent instrumental that was originally called Piano Man and she loved it. I sent it over and a few months later we got in the studio in Sydney to record.
I’ll always remember the day Sophie first recorded on this. It was the first time I’d ever recorded vocals, when the vocal first came I was overcome by this feeling I’d never felt before, stomach dropped, goosebumps all over. Proper intense. It didn't change much from there until I went to Shangri La in Malibu late last year and linked up with Alex Somers, I knew exactly what I wanted on the last section but was yet to execute, I wanted it to rise and almost feel uncomfortable/detuned. I explained this to Alex and he straight away pulled up a recording of some Cello his friend had played for a different project and that was it (comes in around 3 minutes).
I started this a couple of years ago after playing pitch festival, it was the first thing I started after my relationship of 6 years had just ended. All I had was that lead that sounds like a guitar but it was on a different, more floaty synth. I didn’t touch it again until mid last year around the time when I found out my visa had been denied and I missed my first US tour so I suppose it served as a bit of a catalyst for letting shit go. A 'fuck it' song. The main arp came from another idea I'd made but I replaced the synth with an arpeggiator. I'll always remember this one coming together, I was sitting next to my housemate Joel while he was playing FIFA and I was working on it through my laptop speakers, initially he thought the guitar sound was annoying but once I filled it out with the bass, arp, vocal, drums etc it was on. I was jumping round the lounge room hyped because I'd finally made something I liked for the first time in a while.
A few months later I was invited to Shangri La which is when I really brought it home. I found myself up at 2 AM working in Rick Rubin’s studio just myself and the engineer and I had a moment which really put all these things in perspective for me.
This came from the same era as Indifferent when I was experimenting with ideas for film. It's pretty much exactly the same as the day I made it song-wise. I have a bunch of ideas like this but every time I went back to this one it fucked me up which is the best way of knowing if it's good or not. The voices you hear are from a bunch of school kids walking past me while I was getting my daily juice in Coolangatta back in early 2018. This is another one I assumed would end up as a full song but I was so attached to the rawness of the early idea I ran with it.
Follow Willaris. K: FACEBOOK