LIVING these days in London, but hailing originally from the small Swedish coastal town of Västervik, some 280km further down the coast from Stockholm, Tomas Nordmark is a electronica producer and soundscaper with a very complex and organic musical vision.
His interest in the sonic avant-garde was brooked by the 1960s’ art scene in New York. At university in Linköping he studied in the Department of Social Change and Culture, which gave him a more holistic, interdisciplinary feel for where his own creativity was heading and he began composing for multimedia collaboration, producing works for opera, public installations, short films, plays and exhibitions.
His first album, Eternal Search, came out on Valley of Search in 2019; and it’s for that label he’s returning again next month with Exit Ghosts. While retaining a sonic kinsmanship to Eternal Search, this new work is informed both by the history of film scores and by the writings of sadly missed cultural theorist Mark Fisher, the k-punk writer who brought original insight into music, art and living itself in a late-stage capitalist world; and particularly his writings on lost futures, closing off as society lurches one way and another, glimpsed, but never attainable.
“I believe there are certain things in our society that hinder pop culture from progressing into the future,” Tomas says; “I thought to myself, ‘If I’m going to make music, I want it to be in response to these writings’.
“I wanted to see if I could make something that felt totally new, and by using a strict process, I was able to disconnect myself from the work in a curious way.”
Exit Ghosts thus seeks to build upon the structures and strictures of the first record and take them somewhere new. There’s a constant shift and interplay along the axis from the outright beautiful to the cloudier, the grainier, the sterner.
And he’s just unveiled the video for “Ghosts”, a track by turns almost soothing, open, often unsettling, on which South London sisters Waterbaby, the avant-garde vocal entwining of Martha and Jessica Kilpatrick, bring an eerie human breathiness to the track, Cocteau Twins meet Grouper and even 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” adrift in some surreal amniotic space of sibilance and shadowy, grainy percussive texture; rotating slowly in an ink-black, oxygenated milieu akin at times to Tim Hecker, at times to something you feel might have soundtracked the holding and harvesting chamber scenes from Under The Skin.
Tomas says of “Ghosts”: “There are an abundance of stories embedded within the processed electronics of ‘Ghosts’, like the haunting requiem vocal line translated and taken from the opening chapter of Swedish novelist Mare Kandre’s neo-gothic novel Bestiarium and sung by South London artpop duo Waterbaby over a deconstructed Wagner’s “Tristan chord” slowly falling apart.
“I’m hugely inspired by the British theorist Mark Fisher’s The Weird And The Eerie and I think ‘Ghosts’ is the closest I’ve come of making a piece in response to the text.
Work on Exit Ghosts began in London just as the period surely to be afforded capitalisation by history began: that of Lockdown One. Tomas began with a palette informed by Nordic folk and choral melodic tradition, fragmenting them and layering them into new patterns far removed from their original flows.
“My system partly begins with math, but it becomes emotional. It twists, and the structure ends in a different place than it began. That’s why I find creation so thrilling,” he says.
Tomas Nordmark’s Exit Ghosts will be released by Valley of Search digitally and on trad black and midnight shadows vinyl on May 14th; there’s also an option to bundle it with Tomas’ previous LP, Eternal Words, which seems a rather good idea.