Sometimes these days I find myself wondering, when exactly humanity lost its interest in the future. Do you feel the same? When I was a kid in the 90s the future had all the potential to be shaped in a positive way, at least in pop culture. But these days we’re closer to Blade Runner-like dystopia than to a Star Trek-infused utopia where earth ended its global conflicts and went on to discover new worlds beyond our borders. In the wake of a bleak and confusing present we fail to imagine a different road than the downward spiral although I think the ongoing Corona-pandemic might start to cause a positive effect here, at least when it comes to the discussions I have within my bubble. And I’m sure Jenny Rossander – better known under her artistic alias Lydmor – feels the same here.
Over the past decade the Danish producer and composer has been pushing her own artistic and personal frontier forward with every new release. Her recently released album Capacity might be her most ambitious adventure so far, mixing progressive pop concepts with ideas that are both – abstract and addictive. It’s an album like an endorphin explosion – fill of dreams, love, and the desire to express freedom of love, speech, gender and all the things that excite her these days. Contrasts and contradictions are highly welcome because Lydmor creates a world in which fiction and reality merge with each other. Some of us sense that urgent desire for change and a different understanding of desire and our world these days, Lydmor made the fitting soundtrack for it; one that isn’t shying away from the future but also doesn’t get lost in a weird technological fetish like Grimes does it these days.
When I invited Lydmor to host our Electronic Empathy playlist I didn’t know what to expect but I was happy to see a variety of exciting contemporary pop acts in there that seem to follow a similar philosophy like her. Electronic music has always been about pushing boundaries and facing the future with excitement rather than frustration. Lydmor is the perfect person to talk about these themes; she’s charming, passionate, intellectually loaded with all the arguments you need in the fight for a better future. When we met up for an early morning video call Jenny just woke up – but that didn’t stop her from instantly diving deep into the themes of her latest album, futurism, female empowerment in the electronic music and the exciting sounds she compiled for us.
You previously stated that Capacity is an album about liberation – in romantic but also emotional form – can you describe that feeling to us a bit more?
For me it’s mainly about expansion, It’s about becoming bigger. I have this very physical image of taking your own chest and dragging it apart with your bare hands to be able to contain more. That can be painful, of course. Your ribs would obviously refuse in the first place. I’m very interested in exploring that process as I love to experience it in my personal life. I want to be able to be more loving in every situation. In these times in our society we are often faced with scary facts of how bad we are at understanding people who do not look like or act like us.
Were there specific moments in your life that ignited any shifts within you; that made you change your perspective on social aspects in your life?
It was a slow progress with the help of some specific people, getting together with some, getting dumped by some. Still, such situations are an opportunity for heart expansion, obviously. Literature also helped me a lot. I’ve read all of Marcel Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time which is a very long novel and a life-changing and mind-expanding miracle. Also I feel like I’ve been extremely lucky in the years since I released the I Told You I’d Tell Them Our Story album. I ran into some really clever, interesting and warm people. I used to think that all cool intellectual artists would be douche bags and then I met some who were so wonderful and had so much integrity. They were so hungry for information, literature, philosophy and ethics and that also hooked me up with a new understanding. I saw that it’s possible to be very much in your art and still be full of love.
How is that liberation manifested on the album in terms of sound and music – did you break loose from previous work patterns?
As an artist you constantly break loose from certain processes. Every time you make something that you like you are in a prison that you automatically have to escape to create the next thing. With every single album I’ve made I felt more liberated and gave less fucks about other people’s opinion. On the last album I was still struggling and had to force myself to not give any fucks but on Capacity it was more like ‘I can do whatever the heck I want and I will.’ (laughs) Musically it was so much fun, I was jumping around through ideas, genres, and I did stuff with a choir, for example. It was a very, very liberated musical process.
Seeing that people connect with your music and art over the years and seeing that you don’t alienate them with your sound also helps to encourage you.
Yeah. I also think it’s a muscle you have to train to be able to work in a good artistic way. I see it in so many things I do. The past year I did lots of other stuff. I’ve been doing radio, a movie score and I’m about to start working on a TV series score. It’s not a mindset; it’s an active decision to approach new things. You force yourself, like you force yourself to go to the gym to get in shape and practice that muscle. I shouldn’t go to the studio after a successful album and say “Oh, what to they want from me?”
It’s a very human thing to think that way since we are all people of empathy. We all want people to like us. But art is not about that, you have to cut this factor out. You should make what’s interesting, what’s new and what’s inspiring. Push your own limits and not for reasons of success.
Yeah, as you can imagine I’m receiving lots of e-mails everyday and there’s plenty of mediocre stuff in there and I’m always wondering – where’s your hunger? Where’s your creative and artistic vision? I don’t hear it. Sometimes it feels like it was just designed to please the Spotify algorithm…
I think there are a lot of musicians, especially in indie [stops] … Gosh, indie. I mean, pop is way more honest but within the whole indie scene there are so many people who are artistically lazy. It doesn’t mean that they don’t do a lot of stuff. They might be productive but never take a moment to think “Well, wht are we actually contributing to the world?”
‘To bodly go where no other woman has gone before’
Every artist brings a different shape and focus on our Electronic Empathy playlist and I really love that your picks circle a lot around the territory of futuristic hyper pop and acts like Smerz, Yaeji, Cashmere Cat, Låpsley – what fascinates you about that sort of sound and this specific approach to pop?
I was always quite fascinated by futurism and what the future of music looks like, especially in pop music. For me, pop music will always be the place where the battle is fought; it’s the most interesting space. If you take a look at an artist like Tami T which I put into the playlist – it’s absolutely genius. I’ve been following her for a while. She’s one of those artists that exists both – virtually and in real life – and she’s been balancing these worlds pretty well. She’s playing the illusion/fiction/reality game in a really fun way.
Do you know where your fascination for futurism comes from?
I don’t know. For me it’s about being interested in what happens next. I’ve been a lot into sci-fi when I was a kid. I have a sister with who I really close with and we used to watch a lot of Star Trek. She actually became a quantum physicist.
That’s pretty awesome.
Yes, we have a very proud mum. (laughs) So, yeah, sci-fi and physics have been a big part of my life. I can talk about science and quantum physics for hours so I’m very happy to have a person in my life that can actually explain it to me. On top of it I’ve also been a huge reader of philosophy throughout my adult life. And recently I started reading modern philosophy… real modern philosophy, not something from the 19th century that was written by a man. Donna Haraway, Timothy Morton, Bruno Latour who currently doing eco-philosophy post humanism and it’s so fun and interesting and it makes me do art and thinking in different ways. It gives me immense pleasure to be challenged.
Understandable. I think these days there’s such a lack of good utopian ideas within the general public, a desire to push things forward …
I really think you should read Staying With The Trouble by Donna Haraway. Do yourself a favour, it’s wonderful. In this book she describes a new way of thinking about the future, the past, the planet, creatures, humans, technology etc. The title is the crucial mantra here. She says we can’t come to either hope or despair and that it’s not about utopian and dystopian scenarios – whether it’s the future or the past. We have to stay with the trouble, stay with the now. It shifts the focus. It might sound tough but she makes it sound very fun and fascinating. It’s a new modern masterpiece of philosophy to me.
I’m especially always interested in the opening tracks of these playlists – in your case it’s Nídia and Nik Com. Tell me about the song and artist because I never heard of them before.
I haven’t followed the artist so far but I do a radio show on Danish national radio every Sunday and somebody just sent the track to me. The show is about the exploration of creativity and we’re also trying to make it as weird as we can. And I thought this track was so fresh, almost like an aperitif. The production is really amazing, the audio design work is just detail as fuck. It felt like a good way to clear the musical pallet at the beginning.
The late great SOPHIE is in your selection as well. What a horrible loss, right?
Horrible, horrible, horrible! I’m realizing it more every single day. I was really into her music, obviously. The other day I was cycling around Copenhagen and listened to It’s OK To Cry and hearing that now after her passing gave it such a different twist. I just realized how lucky we were to have her and how bad it is that we don’t get a Million albums from her.
She just started. It’s impossible to imagine what could have been …
Because she had the explorative approach towards art. SOPHIE was the opposite of creative laziness. Every time I heard a new track by her there was something in there that made me go: “How the hell is she doing that?” Like many other I would have loved to see her digging her teeth into different genres and other periods of her life.
I also found it interesting to see something relatively oldschool in your playlist with that early 00s tune from Lemon Jelly – what’s your story behind this one?
That might sound cheesy but I actually heard it at a yoga class. (laughs) I’m at a state of my life where I tried to learn how to exercise. I’ve always been a computer geek who never did this. I have a really good yoga instructor who used to work in music so she has a great taste and then this song popped up and I like the remix. I like the fact that everybody knows the sample in if – If You Leave Me Now by Foreigner – and how they loop it so long before actually dropping the chorus. You’re rushed over by endorphins.
Jenny and I actually met before during a session for our short-lived but still very entertaining Palms & Circumstances YouTube show where she already showcased some of her musical skills, including a memorable cover of the Gollum Song Emilíana Torrini used to perform as part of the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack. Did you know that it was originally Björk who was approached to record the song for the movie but had to cancel last minute due to her pregnancy. I’m mentioning that anecdote right now because all these aspects are about to play a major part when it comes to the socialization with electronic music in Jenny’s life.
Can you recall your earliest memory when it comes to electronic music? Something that shaped your understanding of it specifically?
That’s quite funny because the first memory is actually a negative one. Let me paint you a picture of my childhood: a farm surrounded by nature and two young girls who read a lot of fantasy literature, who run around in nature and pretend to be in The Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter. And we were mainly listening to folk, classical music, Enya and other ‘no stress’ music. We were very against pop music. We had an old radio in the bathroom that was programmed to switch on whenever we hit the light switch as well. Late at night there was this electronic music programme that was playing when we were brushing our teeth. We would diss it so hard. We hated it. (laughs)
Now, I’m interesting to see how that changed.
We were on a holiday with our parents and I got into a CD store because that was the time when you were still buying CD’s, at least the final moments. I got into the store and was like ‘Yes, I’m gonna buy a CD’ … and I found that album which was beautiful, it had a woman on the cover and she was wearing that weird clothing, there was a lot of pink and I bought it. That album was Post by Björk. I put it in my disc man and she started singing but her voice wasn’t the most interesting thing for me. It was the musical landscape, those beats, the strings, the synths, the hard moments and the soft ones. It was completely mind-blowing for me. Her voice also sounded quite familiar to me, very Scandinavian, also a bit ‘fantasy’-like. When I got home I also changed school so that also happened at a crucial time in my life. And I remember thinking “Okay, I’m interested in modern music now. Teach me!” (laughs) Then I started listening to what other people were listening to. Lots of indie, but also Massive Attack, The Knife and Portishead. But initially, Björk was the turning point for me.
Understandable, I only started to dive a bit deeper into the music of Björk the other year and it’s quite a ride, isn’t it?
I always really admired how she does her production. She uses electronic music to create her own universe. Back then I didn’t know that I was heading for a similar path. Back then I didn’t understand how it was made, how these magical sounds were made. I still admire it today but now I know how certain sounds are made.
Are there specific sounds and patterns in electronic music that excite you a lot and you find fascinating to explore?
There’s a pattern you can sense in my music – I’m a huge fan of Arpeggiators. Gosh, I love it. It’s such an easy tool for me, a soft spot. And there’s a different thing I realized when I made Capacity. I love those sudden dynamics – something that’s really soft gets really hard in an instant; almost violent. I love that stuff and on this album it feels like I’ve done it right for the first time. The track Go Slow But Go which is also in the playlist is a prime example here.
Female producers of the world unite and take over!
Another important aspect about your life right now: You’re the first Danish Keychange Ambassador – the goal is to achieve 50% representation of women and under-represented genders. How do you see the situation in the field of electronic music and especially music production?
Yes, we are so few, aren’t we? The reasons for that are long, boring and complicated. It’s about structures of society in general and how we look at the concept of artists. And then it also has to do with a lot of internalized patriarchy and talks that constantly tell you that you’re not the right type of artist. In electronic music it is also special. The fact that computers and technology programming are a thing for men is actually quite new. When it started it was women; the first few programmers that dealt with very raw versions of computers were women, basically because it was seen as a low status position. And once it got a bit high status it became a male thing … well, what a surprise, right? We live under the false impression that technology and geekiness is a male treat. All these things affect how many women get into this. It’s so sad because music production is so interesting, giving and beautiful. It’s like painting in 3D. The moment you decide to become a producer you are a producer. All you need is a mind and ears.
There’s indeed a lack of women ‘behind the scenes” when it comes to mixing, mastering and production. As someone who took these things in her own hands: What do you think are crucial obstacles here?
Every time there’s a man in the room, people will more or likely subconsciously presume that he did the heavy part of the lifting. It also happened when I had a live band on stage in my early days. People automatically assumed that the guys in the band did the major part of the work. They came up to them and ask them how they did my music. It’s also about dealing with your own insecurities. That’s also scientifically proven: If the discourse of your own position is generally negative you’ll naturally evolve imposter syndrome. When a world tells you that “girls shouldn’t be producers” then you start to believe it and get massively insecure about it.
I’m lucky that I never got confronted with sexual harassment. I always managed to be the boss of what I’m doing. I had the power so it was hard for others to abuse that power.
If a young girl or non-binary person got the desire to produce electronic music and wants to share it with the world – what advice would you give this person these days?
Be insanely ambitious but insanely kind to yourself and find other artists and latch onto them for dear hope. I have to close friends – one is a film director, one a theatre director, both women working in male industries. Being able to talk to them about our processes, insecurities and ambitions really helps me. They know how difficult it is and it’s valuable to have them.
To every young person who feels inspired now – I strongly encourage you to follow the path of Lydmor and don’t let anybody tell you anything else. You’ll have her full support. And in case you need a bit motivation, please give the marvellous Capacity a spin which is out now on hfn music. Hell, there are even a few tour dates planned later this year and they might actually happen, right?
The first 20 tracks in our Electronic Empathy playlist are picked by Lydmor, starting with the already mentioned Nídia track and ending with her own tune If You Want Capacity. Her selection includes songs by Yaeji, Smerz, Bat For Lashes and Röyksopp, the rest of the playlist are picked by me and together it forms a wonderful playlist.
Please note: Lydmor‘s selection will be only available for a limited amount of time before it will merge with the picks of the next update. So make sure to save your favourites as quickly as possible and discover the music of these lovely artists.