Track By Track: shallou guides us through his lush new EP, Souls
A stunning collection of seven tracks that tells a beautiful story.
Header photo by Julia Lowe.
After a few months drip-feeding singles like Lie, Find and Vignette, DC-based producer shallou has today unveiled the gorgeous full seven-track EP from which they came, Souls. And what a wonderful collection of blissful electronica it is. Channelling a depth and warmth that can sometimes be difficult to find in the electronic world, it's kinda like Slow Magic, Bonobo and Sigur Ros sat down together over a cup of warm tea in a dense, green forest. He was kind enough to send us a track by track those goes into the meaning in each of the tracks, and what it was like working with collaborators such as Kasbo and Riah. Check it out below, or grab the EP yourself HERE.
For my second release, Souls, I found a new cast of collaborators, bringing new voices and styles to my sound. It tells a love story in seven synopses, soundtracking the different emotions and phases of a relationship. We find someone, we lose them, then we find someone new. As the previous EP All Becomes Okay was about the cycle of life, Souls is about the cycle of love. The artwork was created by Luke Barker, who does all my art, and I think its the perfect depiction of the sounds and vibes on this record
Sigh was inspired by the feeling of finding someone. Sonically, I was inspired by the textures of Sigur Ros. I’ve always had a deep love for the huge sound of ambient rock. The lyrics start off with “see I know you’re so alone”, and end with “you’re not alone anymore”, in a pitched up voice. The lyrics are meant to reach out to the listener and comfort them, but they also characterize the initial relief of finding love.
You and Me finds the relationship at its most perfect and idyllic. It's meant to illustrate that fuzzy feeling of intimacy early in a relationship. I wrote this track with Haux and Cautious Clay. Haux sent me the vocal over email, I rearranged it a bit, then gave singing it myself a shot. The lyrics just resonated with me so much that I had to sing on it. This was one of the first singles I’ve sung lead on with a pop structure, so it has a very special place in my heart. I met up with Cautious at a totally separate session, where the song was still an instrumental, and he wrote this super catchy line, “wish that I could take more chances”. I chopped that up a bit, filtered it, and placed it before the chorus. It's definitely one of my favorite parts of the song.
Find is about that feeling of distance when we move away from the one(s) we love. I wrote this with Cody, and at the time I felt I was at an important crossroads in my life and had to make some big decisions on who and where I was going to be. I wasn’t sure, and I think that notion of uncertainty shines through in the lyrics. Cody and I also wanted to express the desire we all have to hold on to the love that keeps us grounded. I found Cody on IG after he reached out to say hey, and I saw this video of him singing while walking through a cave. His voice was haunting and passionate, and I immediately reached out to try and create something similar. I sent him a barebones demo for us to write to. In the meantime, I had been talking to Kasbo about working together. I figured it would be really interesting if they both worked on it, so I asked Kasbo to put his spin on the production with some beautiful new ideas. Then I took our new instrumental to Cody where it all finally clicked.
Vignette is about the phase of a relationship where lovers miss the memories of each other. Vignette is sort of the sequel to Find, as it still portrays the distance in a relationship. It's actually in the same key as well; the instrumentals came about in the same session of just me in my room with a midi keyboard. Similar to You and Me, I felt like this instrumental was calling out for me to try and sing to it, and this is the first song with a pop structure that I wrote all the lyrics to myself. I was feeling really creative at the time so I was more willing to take risks with my sound and try things out. I hadn’t felt this free in writing since All Becomes Okay, when I made most of the songs on my own.
Lost is an instrumental, but it's meant to signify the relationship breaking down, with melancholy sounds and haunting foley. The track itself came about from me just playing around with the chords from another song of mine, Heights. I brought a bunch of ambient loops into a session with my drummer Billy Delelles when I first moved to LA. He was working out of BedRock at the time, which is a rehearsal/studio space with what seems like hundreds of bands practicing at once. The chaos of that space made the song really hard to even hear while we worked on it, but somehow with all the noise going on we were able to zero in on some really cool ideas on guitar, a Juno 60, and Billy’s Space Echo. I took the sounds back home to my bedroom studio and cut them up into loops to build out the song. I can say this is my most experimental track to date but its definitely my favorite. It feels so heart wrenching to me but still upbeat. I didn’t go straight for a four-on-the-floor dance beat this time so i think it really stands out amid my catalogue.
Lie is about the negative side of a relationship, where trust starts to break down. I was excited to work with WENS and Riah on the song to show a woman’s perspective, as this was my first ever track featuring a female vocal. Riah has this beautiful grit to her voice that makes anything she sings sound powerful yet vulnerable. This song actually came about when I sent a little beat demo to singer songwriter WENS. The session was arranged by my manager and it was one of my first sessions in LA, shortly before moving there. I was still so new to the area and couldn’t afford really expensive studio time, but somehow we were able to land StarRo’s studio while he was away working in Japan. The studio was in downtown LA, sort of secluded and low-key. in the session, WENS seemed to have the lyrics on the tip of her tongue; the writing felt so natural and we had all the words and melodies written in just a few hours. I thought Riah was the perfect one to bring in to sing it and the track came together. It's definitely my poppiest track but I was excited about putting my own twist on that style.
The final track on the record, Skin, takes place at the end of the relationship, where the initial intimacy of the relationship is missing, and the lovers just wish they could be close to each other again. It's sort of the sad flip side to You and Me. This track was created purely over the internet between me and this talented mysterious artist MTMBO who is based in London. It's funny how we were able to write such a personal track thousands of miles away from each other. I think that speaks to how relatable that feeling is. Souls ends here, but if you repeat the record from the top, the love story begins again, and the cycle continues. I hope people find some solace from these songs in a more specific way than All Becomes Okay. This record deals with more specific personal experiences, and I think I’ve focused my sound here while still trying some new things. I hope you guys really love it :)
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