Syntaks: “Blue Sunshine”
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Jakob Scøtt of Copenhagen, Denmark has been releasing solo albums under the moniker Syntaks for years, while simultaneously balancing projects with longtime collaborator Jonas Munk (Manuel) and a slew of other bands. In 2006, just like in a film, Scøtt met his muse, Anna Cecilia, in a bar.
A relationship sparked, built on a shared love of music and European art-house movies, and the two slowly began making music together. The release of Ylajali marks a new beginning for Scøtt. Syntaks is now a duo, with Scøtt acting as instrumental technician and Cecilia as vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter. The two are also a couple in love, with a baby on the way. Ylajali is their love letter to one another.
Ylajali revels in the dreamy ambience and melodic haze of Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream, combined with the densely textured beats and crescendos of Death in Vegas. It’s a mood piece, a step towards minimalism, with the thumping blips and beats of Scøtt’s previous work toned down in favor of slow interludes and sonic exploration.
The inspirations for Syntaks are varied and spring from the minds of two people with a voracious appetite for literature, film, and art. “I have a master’s of literature, and Jakob has a master’s in film and media,” Cecelia says. “So that was the way we started talking, and later it became about the music for us.”
The gray skies of Copenhagen, a norm rather than the exception, lend an air of moodiness to the music, along with the feeling of floating in a fever dream that doesn’t quite make sense.
“We get inspired by all kinds of fictions that have sort of open endings,” Scøtt says. “Stuff that doesn’t have a lot of closure and stuff that doesn’t move from A to B to C — those are the things that evoke emotion in us.” The couple’s appreciation of directors Alejandro Jodorowsky and Guillermo del Toro help explain some of Ylajali’s visceral darkness.
“We aren’t bleak people, but beauty is more complex to us. The beauty should always contain its ugly counterpart, and we never forget that.”
“Those movies — I’m thinking of Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, or any of del Toro’s work — contain ugliness, but they also have such amazing beauty,” Scøtt says. “The imagery is very brutal, but there’s a beauty that overshadows the whole death and negative aspect of it. We aren’t bleak people, but beauty is more complex to us. The beauty should always contain its ugly counterpart, and we never forget that.”
The sound textures of Ylajali are rich without sounding overly digitalized. There is an organic, lo-fi texture, reminiscent of the early scores of John Carpenter. “I started out playing drums, so if I’m not playing live, I’m trying to think it into a live context,” Scøtt says.
“You can make organic-sounding stuff through programming,” Scøtt continues. “There are live drums on Ylajali, yet even though they were recorded live, the drums can still sound very clinical. A lot of times, you can get more of the right feel, the warmth, through digital instrumentation. People think we should record our albums on tape or do tape experiments, but tons of records have been done on tape that don’t sound warm or have that certain texture that we’re looking for. We try to use as many different mediums as possible.”
Some Americans have begun to catch on to Syntaks. Ylajali was released on Ghostly International, an electronic-specialty label out of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“Everything about this record was open-minded and open-ended, and if people don’t like it, then we’ll just have it for ourselves,” Scøtt says. “That’s been really inspirational to us.” Cecilia chimes in, “I think it’s important to say that this album is our love child. We really put a lot of romance and thought into it, and we’re not afraid of the sound being too grandiose or romantic.”