…Mythology itself has been an interest for me since I was a child and both the real life of the Vikings and all the ancient stories is a part of our heritage.
V▲LH▲LL are way mysterious, even by the standards of the artists they keep company with. Despite emerging as recently as early 2012, the anonymous Scandinavian duo have managed to amass a tidy catalogue of free and pay-to-download releases that span a healthy range of post-witch house sounds and beyond, dipping into neo-classical, ambient, pop and hip hop waters. Their collaboration with M‡яc▲ll▲, Għøsŧs of Λnŧįquįŧұ, made our best of 2012 list, and with good cause: in spite of its relative brevity it remains a fairly singular release, demonstrating the musical possibilities that have sprung up in the wake of witch house. We contacted them via e-mail to discuss the advantages of obscurity, the influence of mythology on their work and the genesis of their unique sound.
ID:UD: You have a history as a producer and artist in related genres, but it’s only recently that you developed V▲LH▲LL as an outlet to explore some of the witch house sounds. Can you tell us what moved you to explore different sonic ideas?
V▲LH▲LL: Yes, but first off, V▲LH▲LL (after the first few songs) is a male/female duo and we’ve both been doing electronic music for some time. However I will answer the rest of the interview from my perspective. The first experiments with the witch house sound were due to my curiosity. I got into witchy stuff through a friend and right away I was intrigued by it. The soundscapes, atmospheres and aesthetics were things I immediately liked. I saw a way to have a musical outlet that I had been searching for a long time. A way to tie together my love for dark electronic music, experimentation and incorporate other things I love, like neofolk, movie soundtracks and mythology. It also appealed to me as a very open genre that would accept whatever weird stuff I would like to throw in there.
“We wanted to be able to do whatever we wanted to do, and not be compared to or judged on what we had done in the past.”
ID:UD: You’ve kept your different projects completely segregated, to the point where there’s no way anyone would be able to determine your identity from the usual sources. Is that separation important to V▲LH▲LL’s identity? Do you foresee a time when you pull back the curtain?
V▲LH▲LL: It came naturally actually. It was a way to keep the project instead of the individuals in focus. We wanted to be able to do whatever we wanted to do, and not be compared to or judged on what we had done in the past. It’s also a way to let V▲LH▲LL be just V▲LH▲LL and let people create their own image of us. Together with the music it’s a way to inspire people’s imagination.
ID:UD: Despite the project’s anonymity, you’ve been able to collaborate with a wide number of artists working in a similar vein, most notably M‡яc▲ll▲. How have those collaborations come about, and has the anonymity of the projects involved affected them?
V▲LH▲LL: M‡яc▲ll▲ was one of the main reasons why I got into making this music and I feel privileged to work so closely with such a brilliant artist. V▲LH▲LL has connected with many other artists mainly through sites like Soundcloud and done some extremely satisfying collaborations with both artists connected to witch house, and projects outside that genre. The anonymity hasn’t really been an issue. We usually introduce ourselves as V▲LH▲LL or one of our first names and explain our reasons to remain incognito and so far nobody seems to see it as a problem.
ID:UD: While many of the artists involved in (post) witch house have taken on a generally spooky or occult aesthetic, you’ve taken on a much more specific niche with the Scandinavian/Viking theme. Where did that come from, and why did you think to pair it with the type of sound you’re working with?
V▲LH▲LL: As I mentioned earlier I wanted this project to explore some of my interests a bit deeper and the combination of the new dark music, and (mainly) Norse mythology came instantly to me. It became a perfect arena for the kind of music I (and later we) wanted to create. The mythology itself has been an interest for me since I was a child and both the real life of the Vikings and all the ancient stories is a part of our heritage. We find it to be very interesting and also fantastic entertainment.
ID:UD: Conceptual aesthetics aside, the project’s sound also seems to have a very unified, niche feel: heavily atmospheric pads and vocals with thick, booming kick drums. Do you go into working on V▲LH▲LL tracks consciously thinking about how to create that sort of sound or does it just emerge organically?
V▲LH▲LL: Most often it emerges organically. I rarely have a staked out plan when starting on a new track apart from a basic idea. It might be a sound I want to explore, a lyrical theme I want to create a soundscape around or often I just feel like doing music and start recording stuff and see where it goes. Nowadays I usually do a rough edit of a track before we sit down as a duo and discuss how it should continue and what it lacks or shouldn’t have.
Making remixes is another story though; working on them produces a completely different scheme.
ID:UD: Everything you’ve released thus far has been either by donation on Bandcamp or free via your Soundcloud page. Do you see continuing with that model? It seems that many of the artists you work with are doing the same thing, how do you think that effects the way the music is perceived and listened to? Are we past the point where the value of a piece of art is associated with its price tag?
V▲LH▲LL: We love working like this and haven’t been looking for a record label or anything like that. We do our music, put it online and people who like it download it and listen to it. Sometimes they even pay for it. It really shows that even in this day and age people still care for supporting good music. I think we will continue working like this but make occasional physical releases.
ID:UD: One of the other factors in the movement you’re associated with is the absence (or at least extremely limited) of physical editions. Is that decision economic or aesthetic? Will there ever be a V▲LH▲LL vinyl or CD?
“Give us a symphony orchestra and I promise that we’ll put it to good use…”
V▲LH▲LL: Well, as you said limited runs of physical products happens. This I believe has to do with economics but also very much with convenience. It’s a lot of work making and distributing a physical product, and something that is still much more convenient to use a record label for. We are not against it at all. There will likely (and probably quite soon) be at least a V▲LH▲LL CD and/or vinyl available.
ID:UD: We have a pet theory that the rise of the DAW has sped up the rate at which artists can develop and explore new sounds or styles. How tied in is the computer to the existence of the project (as we just talked about, it’s the sole distribution model for you), and can you ever foresee a time when you go “unplugged” and use other gear?
V▲LH▲LL: The computer is a great music instrument and combined with mainly synthesizers it’s our weapon of choice. We do sometimes use other gear and I wouldn’t mind using more “real” instruments in the future. Give us a symphony orchestra and I promise that we’ll put it to good use…If we can still put distorted sawtooth leads on top of it!