When in the middle of making of a record, it’s tempting to ignore the extra stuff that goes alongside music. Artwork, titles, how to play songs live - these are often afterthoughts. With Amsterdam-based musician Klangstof, however, he had everything in place before the sound.
In Dutch, the band name translates into two parts; “Klang” meaning “Reverb” and “Stof” meaning “Dust”. As far as summaries go for Koen van de Wardt’s music, these two words do the job. Reverb-drenched, light as dust, spacious pop rules the roost on debut album ‘Close Eyes to Exit’, which came out earlier this year.
“I heard the word “Klangstof” and I thought it should sound like this,” Koen remembers. “Then the artwork came, and it felt to me like, ‘This is me’. I was almost inspired by my own name and artwork, which was really weird.” In some ways, it’s a similar process to how Stanley Donwood paints Radiohead artwork while listening in on their studio sessions, or how Frank Ocean put together a great big magazine while making ‘Blonde’.
Radiohead happen to be a big reference point for Klangstof. When Koen was fifteen, he moved from the Netherlands to Finland. Thrown in the deep end, “all of a sudden” he was “in this country where nobody speaks my language and I don’t have friends anymore.” ‘OK Computer’ was the only CD he had on him at the time, and it turned into “my best friend for a year,” he says. “I wouldn’t feel that lonely, or I’d at least hear the voice of something thinking the same things that I did. They were the only band who really helped me feel the way I felt.”
That’s not to say ‘Close Eyes to Exit’ is all doom and gloom. There are hints of Chromatics and the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack in his meticulous synthwork, and the gigantic ‘Sleaze’ could easily slot into M83’s arena shows.
The main source of inspiration Koen turns to is the weird spaces he records in. First there was the Vondelbunker, a planned bomb shelter that instead became a nightclub. Now, he makes music in a disused warehouse previously belonging to a local newspaper. “It’s really inspiring. I can’t work at home or in a normal place,” he admits. And these strange spots go a long way in explaining his debut’s gloomy, wide-eyed beauty.
Klangstof’s debut album ‘Close Eyes to Exit’ is out now. Taken from the October 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe to DIY below.
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