Bubblegum industrial: Loke Rahbek on Croatian Amor, Lust For Youth and why he wants your naked selfies
Loke Rahbek wants you to send him naked selfies.
In fact, it’s the only way to get hold of The Wild Palms, his new album under alter ego Croatian Amor. It’s released on cassette today – Sunday, June 22, the day of Rahbek’s 25th birthday – and available for a month until July 22. But it’s not available for conventional purchase. To acquire a copy, you have to email a full-frontal nude self-portrait to Rahbek at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the text ‘The Wild Palms’ written on your body or in some way present in the photo.
The idea for The Wild Palms, says Rahbek, grew out of his musings on the relationship between the artist and the audience, and how one might break down the barriers between the two. “I’ve been very interested in coming up with ways that this relationship might be made into something more like a communication,” he says. The number of copies he’ll make of The Wild Palms is strictly limited to the number of people who agree to take part: an experiment in intimacy and shared vulnerability.
“When you share your work with someone, it can be like showing your own skin – you are stripping naked,” he says. “So I ask that anyone who gets the music does not share it with anyone. And I promise in return to not share those photos with anyone. They are going to be in a file, and they are going to stay there. I wanted it to be secret, because you know if we’re talking about intimacy, nothing is stronger than keeping secrets together.”
Ostensibly, you might call Loke Rahbek a noise or industrial musician, although it feels slightly deceptive to locate him in either, his work being wide-ranging and unbeholden to genre tropes or stylistic boundaries. The hub of a vibrant Copenhagen underground scene that has also spawned groups like Iceage and Lower, Rahbek co-runs the Posh Isolation label, who have just celebrated their fifth birthday, and plays in a dizzying number of projects: Damien Dubrovnik, his synth-driven power electronics duo with Posh Isolation co-founder Christian Staadsgard, who recently released the great new seven-inch Patterns Of Penetration on Alter; Lust For Youth, an electro-pop group helmed by Hannes Norrvide, who are currently touring the goth Balearica of International on Sacred Bones; Sexdrome, his black metal-tinged punk group, who may have played their last show at Posh Isolation’s 13 Torches For A Burn festival in Los Angeles last month; the recently retired Vår, a sombre electronic group with Iceage frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt; and his solo project, LR.
Croatian Amor is a softer and more contemplative project than much of Rahbek’s work, characterised by soothing, synthetic textures that remind me a little of the synth soundtrack work of Angelo Badalamenti; Rahbek himself calls it “bubblegum industrial”. As he drifts further from his noise roots, so too does the music released on Posh Isolation, which in forthcoming months will feature music from a diverse spread of acts: from the gloomed-out techno of Mischa Pavlovski to the serrated basement post-punk of White Void to the cobwebbed church organ elegies of Vanessa Amara.
We speak on a Sunday morning shortly after Rahbek’s return from Stockholm, where he has been an artist in residence at the city’s electronic music studios EMS, working on an album with his friend and collaborator Frederikke Hoffmeier, aka Puce Mary. “It’s an incredible place,” he says. “If you’re from Scandinavia, they give out extensive residencies, three or four months – they pay our way, give us a room, and we can use the studios as much as we want.” EMS’s vast analogue systems are something quite new for Rahbek. “They have technicians there who can sort of walk you through it. But I get lost all the time.” He laughs. “I’m not a very technical person. But it is interesting to try something new.”
How did the idea for The Wild Palms come about?
Throughout the last year, I had a lot of long conversations about performance – they were a recurring theme. I found I was touring these experiments with how you use a stage, and how you use yourself on a stage. But in terms of releases, it’s just been how it’s always been. People buy something, and then they go home and listen to it, and they are the observer only, they are the listener. I do as well, we all fall into the trap where we give culture, or any piece of art… we measure it out from how many people we manage to touch with it. If you sell a lot of records, or a lot of people go to your show, it’s a successful record. I found that intimacy can get lost in that, and so I wanted to set that whole thing in reverse, and sort of make something that’s for very few people – or maybe a lot of people, but at least it’s not going to be out there. It’s been a crazy process to work on. This is a full album. It took a lot of work to finish. And ultimately if no one agrees to this experiment then no one will hear it.
But you’re comfortable with that.
It’s strange, but I think if it does work. I like this idea that it is a sort of a membership card to a society, or a gang, or something like that. And in order to take part you have to put a bit of yourself in there. To make it even – the audience are no longer the audience, but an active participant in the project.
What is the significance of the title?
It’s taken from this ’90s TV show, a science fiction about these travelling gangs trying to take over power in America. One group is called The Fathers, one group is called The Friends. The Fathers are, I guess, the evil people – they’re in charge of this broadcasting channel, and they make these holograms. They’re inventing new ways of entertainment, so father than watching television, you have this entire soap opera going on in your home. But as it’s always been with Croatian Amor, it’s not hooked to one theme. It’s been a very important part of Croatian Amor that it’s not linear. It’s a project about fantasy, and the titles and the imagery is sort of kept at this brainstorm level, for it to stay playful.
How does Croatian Amor differ from your other solo project, LR?
Well, it’s a solo project, but I think the idea was always that it shouldn’t be me, so it feels very different from LR, which is very much me. LR is the project with the least amount of fantasy. Croatian Amor is probably my project that is the furthest away from anything real. The idea was to present things in a way that we, or my generation, experiences stuff. When I first got into noise and underground music, you would read interviews and people would talk about the old underground tape trade world, mail art, all this stuff. At first, you think ‘oh, this is the right way of doing it’. But I came to realise, this is not what I come from, this is not my generation, and this is not how we do things. We shouldn’t aim to relive this nostalgia for something we ultimately never experienced. I wanted to do a project about this overload of information we get now. We don’t have to look for information – now we have to filter information. It’s all there, literally a lick away. The task is moved from finding information to filtering it.
Yeah. That’s the word. I wanted to make music like that – like being on YouTube, or changing the channels on your TV really fast, or being able to travel round the world in 24 hours. I wanted to do something very now.