The Universe in a Face
The latest single of Swedish singer-songwriter An Echoic presents the listener with a mirror into individual identity. “Written Lines” explores the idea of the human face as the book of existence, with an experimental freak folk style that sounds like an intriguing unanswered question.
The main topic of the song was inspired by a passage in Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård’s “My struggle”.
“The author describes an intense moment where he sees a reflection of his own face,” An Echoic explains. “He looks at the worn-out face as though it’s someone else’s and asks what has come to make up this sad face. This quite short scene in the book had an intense impact on me and provoked a lot of existential thoughts.”
Recorded in his home studio in Malmö, the song started as a strange guitar riff. A music theme with ambiguous harmony and rhythm that was later made into “Written Lines” in collaboration with producer Andrew Feels.
The overarching topics of most of An Echoic’s music are personal identity and introspection. His two EPs “An Echoic EP” (2016) and “Headless Heathen” (2018) go beyond typical alt-folk expectations. Unconventional harmony and sound design are two of his recurrent themes.
The Malmö-based artist has been releasing a series of singles with similar aesthetics since the autumn of 2021. His latest song “Bad Weather” was accompanied by a peculiar music video animation that was featured on outlets like The Au Review and Tinnitist.
“Written Lines” will be released via Rexius Records on April 29th.
Photo: David Eliasson
Artwork: Georgia Rose
An Echoic’s music is one of those rare gems that encourage you to push beyond your usual listening habits, subtly taking notice of its quirky quality. What started as a solo experiment in 2016 after dropping out of jazz school became a solid artistic project for Martin Kihlstedt, Swedish singer-songwriter based in Canada. His style can remind you of Andy Shauf combined with Tame Impala’s early psychedelics, with a tendency towards experimental songwriting that you’d rather associate with Radiohead.
Just like Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen or Elliot Smith, An Echoic is not afraid to sing tales about the rough edges of existence. He tackles tough topics with the clinical curiosity of a shaman-philosopher: “I’m always intrigued when I hear stories told by people that have been through unimaginable things. So I wanted to write a story like that.”
The fascination for subtle musical quirkiness developed through years of playing and improvising since his early days in Sweden. He continued to craft this particular style while studying jazz for 2 years in Toronto, where he played and performed with various jazz, funk and blues ensembles.
During this time he also built artistic collaborations with visual artists, producers etc. that gave birth to An Echoic as a fully-formed project. His idea was to create a reflection of himself, rather than just ”a character”, writing music that encourages you to become an active listener. This kind of engagement is very related to the different aspects of introspection (like meditation and a kind of spirituality devoid of religion), which is a central motive for his songs.
Martin released An Echoic’s self-titled debut EP in 2016 and shortly thereafter signed to Rexius Records for his second EP: “Headless Heathen”. A chamber of thoughts in the form of experimental songwriting (recording spoken word and sampling traditional folk instruments, for example) and unimaginable stories.
“Bad Weather” will be released via Rexius Records on January 28th, part of his new series of singles with similar aesthetics.