»Sofarnopolis« by Matias Aguayo & The Desdemonas
Debut album out on Crammed Discs (CD/2LP/Digital). Release date: October 13th, 2017
Available here: matiasaguayo.bandcamp.com/album/sofarnopolis
“I didn’t plan to do an album.” says Matias Aguayo of his latest project, the multi-dimensional concept album by his new band, The Desdemonas. “For me the fundamental creative moment is the one in which there is no focus on a result but one in the moment.” The moment he speaks of is captured across a double album, taking in electronic-tinged nods to post punk, visceral rhythms, hypnotic grooves and a free form sense of experimentation and idiosyncrasy that touches upon moments of rock, disco and dystopian dub.
Born in Chile and raised in Germany, Aguayo is synonymous with the electronic scene of Berlin. He’s had album’s out on the legendary label, Kompakt and formed his own legendary label in Cómeme, releasing work by the likes of Lena Willikens and Phillip Gorbachev. Pitchfork have referred to him as, “the man who helped popularize and expand minimal [techno]”. Yet with this latest project Aguayo is temporarily leaving the 4/4 beats and DJ sets behind to do something new altogether by fronting a post-electronic rock band. The Desdemonas line-up consists of drummer Matteo Scrimali from Italy, keyboard player Henning Specht from Germany, guitarist/bass player Gregorio Gomez from Colombia, and Matias Aguayo on vocals, keys etc.
However, a conventional band this is not. Sofarnopolis is not just the name of the album but also a fictional location and backdrop for the record. “The record is the soundtrack of a series of fantasies around a fictional city called Sofarnopolis – or maybe Sofarnopolis is just a state of mind – and the Desdemonas do the soundtrack to all that fantasy.” he says of the project’s rich tapestry. So thought out is the fictional location for this record that Aguayo has thought of people and places in it beyond his own band. “Sofarnopolis is an imaginary city, maybe in a parallel world, where bands are still the hottest thing and the record industry is big. There are bands like the Desdemonas, Solid Bass, Cold Fever and Jonnie Frugo that play in different clubs, The Rabbit Hole being the most legendary one. It’s about a bunch of kids experiencing that legendary period.”
The ideas began to come to Aguayo when he returned to near where he grew up on the outskirts of Cologne. “I took a field recorder, a keyboard, a drum machine, a looper, a mic and no computer – I didn’t want to look at a screen – and what emerged at this early stage already defined the ambiance of Sofarnopolis and the whole vibe of The Desdemonas”. In fact it was unlocking the part of his brain that reconnected to his times there as a teenager that also set the tone for much of this record. “As these memories emerged of teenage times, it is like flashbacks in which time gets another meaning. For me making music is also this freedom of time travel and I don’t mean that at all in a referential sense, it is more about this multidimensional space one is free to create in.”
Being immersed near where he grew up also rekindled a love for some of the sounds he would hear there, as well as simpler times with a reduced sonic palate. “I grew in the countryside in a small town. Access to music was difficult so I would record late night radio shows with strange music to get hold of what I’d like to listen to, but I would also record the strange and mysterious sounds of the ultra short waves, synth-like sounds from which unknown languages would emerge, strange songs that would softly disappear and drown out again into noise. When I started to record the ideas for this record I set a mood that somehow reconnected me with that time.” This also inspired the lyrical tone for the album, which are heavily improvised and sang in a mix between German, Spanish and English.
The sonic eclecticism of the album matches the vastness of the ideas and concept within it. Stylistically, the album opens with the Twin Peaks-esque ‘6am’ and by ‘Nervous’ has taken a Can meets PiL approach and by the album’s closing moments on ‘Antidoto’ it broods with menace and cinematic tension. It’s an album that requires a full plunge into it, complete immersion and absorption and in many ways it was created like this as an antidote to the times. “I want to create a complex album experience that shall be reflected on many levels, it will need some focus, and it will need time, and I want the audience to have the chance to dive into it and discover things with time, which is somehow opposed to the perception of working in these days of social media frenzy, psychopathology and short attention spans.”
There is a visual part to the album as well, a series of sketches and drawings that link to some of the themes and characters explored through the music. “I read a lot of comics and graphic novels and now I am somehow reflecting the moods of the Desdemonas songs with these drawings.” he says and these drawings will also come to life further through videos and cartoons, some of which em-blaze the album’s artwork. It is all part of a wider, more all encompassing plan that Aguayo has for this work, which he views as still growing and evolving.
More than anything though Aguayo has created an entire world for people to disappear into. “I have this idea to offer a really complex story that is accessible through diving into the music, text and drawing and that should be always stimulating and empowering to the fantasy of the audience, I would like to invite people to use this space for imagination, concentration and ease.”