Leading up to their second EP, Dutch electronic duo Micro Talk premiere their brand new track “Leap” at Beats Per Minute HQ. Formed by Nana Adjoa and Tim Schakel, the project was forged out of a necessity to compose music with a fluid disposition, shapeshifting quixotically between pop structures and spaced out sound abstractions. We speak with Micro Talk about their freewheeling recording methods, the inspiration of Nicolas Jaar, and why “Leap” is the most important track of their new EP.
There’s a strong narrative thread to how Adjoa and Schakel work: following debut EP Expanding Dark, the band’s upcoming EP – released sometime this fall on Bloomer Records – focuses on the existential philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard once said “What labels me, negates me” and Micro Talk operate true to that adage.
After dropping two thrilling tracks, “Particles Scatter” and “Defense”, earlier this year, “Leap” completely abandons its pop sensibility for a structureless, formless track that embraces you in its warm celestial currents.
“The production had to feel as a transformation,” Micro Talk reveal. “So we decided not to sing on it or use any lyrics. We sampled some reverb parts of our first track, ‘False Step,’ as part of the transformation. You can hear the comfortable chorus noise of the Juno60 and also the arpeggiator. We made different loops with Line6 DL4 pedal which we sped up or slowed down. You can hear moaning contrabases. And because we sped up or slowed down almost everything on this track it became more timeless. Everything happening at once. A transformation. “
Take a moment and listen to “Leap”, along with the visualizer below. Then check out our Q&A with Schakel to find out more about what drives Micro Talk.
How did the Micro Talk project start?
It started when Nana and I shared a studio at the Bijlmer Bajes in Amsterdam. It was around that time she had already finished the Down At The Root EP with Nana Adjoa and was mainly working on the industry side of things, which is something that most musicians don’t really feel like doing. So one day we were in the studio together and we were going to just make something, just for the sake of that. That immediately resulted in something interesting, and above all, it was a lot of fun to do. For Nana, it also took some pressure off making her own record.
The studio was very small and limited to the gear we had at the time. We mainly used the Korg MS10 and the DX7. For the rest we made guitars and made our own samples. We didn’t have room for a drum kit so they were all programmed. It was a very nice time and the place was quite special. I think, because we made it in an old prison, it’s why the music sounds the way it does; a bit chilly and alienating because of the prison’s acoustics. Perhaps that’s why we came up with a space theme.
The first two songs you released “Particles Scatter” and “Defense” are both anchored by the philosophies of Sören Kierkegaard. In what fashion do you think these songs contrast?
The lyrics are the biggest difference; “Defense” is mainly about the moment you realize you have to let go of certain patterns and thoughts in order to be free. “Particles Scatter” is more about the moment when you actually let go. You accept to let go without actually knowing where you are going. Musically, I think the biggest difference is the rhythm. “Particles Scatter” is more motorik driven. “Defense” is more trip-hop like. As for the rest of the song, we use the same tools and that in turn ensures that the songs stay connected, and that’s also what we want; to create musical worlds.
The big directive for Micro Talk is experimentation. What are some of your favorite tools in your songwriting and production methods, and how do they unlock your creativity?
The studio we are working in often sparks the biggest inspiration. So in that sense, the studio is our favorite tool. Furthermore, we like to put a lot of things through guitar pedals. Like on this EP, we ran vocals through guitar pedals and an amp. We often slow down or speed up our playing and we often work with small loops. For this EP, we have taken a lot of loops from cassette tapes from a Tascam 424 MKII. It is often the small loops or happy accidents that have an inspiring effect, because they provide a certain atmosphere/ambience so that the sounds you come up with next are a little less conventional.
After two more song-based tracks, “Leap” is a wordless, structureless ambient piece, and you called this the most important track on the EP. In what way exactly?
Because Kierkegaard’s concept Leap is at the heart of this EP; there’s a real transformation taking place in this track. It’s about accepting something beyond the bounds of reason. A change that we can’t comprehend. That’s why it became an instrumental track because words would take away this feeling. After this moment a change takes place in our character and that’s what “Defense” and “Particles Scatter” are about.
Outside of Kierkegaard, do you have other literary or otherwise non-musical influences that have made a big impact?
Image plays a big role for us. This can be a film or installation art. For example, while making this EP, we went to Het Hem in Zaandam to look at a piece by Nicolas Jaar called Incomprehensible Sun. That was very inspiring because he is so good at creating worlds and always playing with expectations. That’s something that really appeals to us because we try to do the same in all our tracks. ”Leap” comes closest to that. We think that’s a piece of music that wouldn’t look out of place in an installation. Tracks like “Particles Scatter” and “Defense” are more pop songs, but there we try to play with expectations by not sticking to a standard pop structure.
Where do you see Micro Talk develop going forward? Is it going to be translated to a live act?
We have agreed that we will only perform live if the project gets out of hand. That’s not yet been the case. The focus is now on playing live with Nana Adjoa, but we are already working on new music and have recorded the first sketches.
Micro Talk previously released the 2019 EP Expanding Dark. Nana Adjoa released excellent debut LP Big Dreaming Ants, which you can order via Bandcamp.