Working in collaboration with friend, artist and animator Natalia Podgorska, Eden Samara explores a hallucinatory game world modelled around each track from her debut album, Rough Night.
Rough Night, self-described as “a tragicomedy in seven scenes and an interlude,” is the sound of singer, writer and producer Eden Samara working things out. Pulling focus on an irresistible club pop sound, threaded through with contributions from the best and brightest in contemporary dance music, including Call Super, Shanti Celeste, TSVI and Loraine James, Samara’s debut album is at once a coming of age story and an intimate testament to the challenges of drawing from such personal places. “I think well into our adulthood we still go through cycles of losing ourselves and finding ourselves again, so the album encompasses a cycle of growing pains, then coming out the other end where one might appear the same but inside something has shifted,” the artist explains. “I wanted the album as a whole to sound a bit unpolished, like real people making music with little to no equipment and a lot of heart.” Bounding from cosmic introspection on ‘Ultimatum’ and ‘Interlude’ to the sun-dappled skip and sensual stumble of ‘The Local’ and ‘Growing Into Your New Skin,’ weaving between bittersweet torch songs and near-future sex jams on ‘Sophie,’ ‘D4M,’ and title track ‘Rough Night,’ all the while whipping up an anthem for emotional complexity in the shape of ‘Madonna,’ Samara explores her internal worlds with openness and generosity, bringing us along for the ride no matter how raw and real. It is this exploratory quality of Rough Night that formed the primary inspiration for Samara’s collaboration with friend, artist and animator Natalia Podgorska, a hallucinatory game world modelled around each track from the album.
“Rough Night is a journey through internal change and growth, and we wanted to reflect that in the visuals – every song is a different scene that visually represents my internal world,” explains Samara. “The record documents a four year period at the end of my twenties where I totally changed as a person. Some people call it a Saturn return. It was like growing pains – when we grow, we go through all these feelings that are a progressive experience.” Podgorska takes the record’s eight tracks and constructs an intricate ecosystem around each of them, through which a virtual avatar of Samara is free to explore, manifesting her soul-searching into an expansive virtual odyssey. “I loved the idea of having a collection of visual pieces that tie together through music within an album that’s also very coherent,” says Podgorska. “It’s growing pains, it’s growth. I love having something that ties it all together visually. Technically it was a fun challenge to work with music I already had and I could create this world where certain elements of the game engine are reactive to the music, so watching the album video you can spot elements that are not just animated for your pleasure, but respond to beats and certain frequencies.” Starting out in a central hub area that invokes the warm memory of the Toronto neighbourhood bar that ‘The Local’ takes its name from, the titular Rough Night unfolds through landscapes of alien flora and fauna, iridescent bubbles and tentacular speaker stacks, flitting between outer and inner space. In one moment Samara floats through a shoal of richly textured sheets of fabric, rippling in zero gravity, while the next sees her strolling across a rainbow bridge, stepping past neon tracers of jubilant ravers, the spirit of letting loose picked out in shimmering light.
“It’s all made possible by using the game engine Unreal,” continues Podgorska. “I wanted to embrace the game-like associations, working in a game engine, so we have this character that looks a bit like Eden. She travels across the space as the listener is progressing through the music. The album is a journey in every aspect, so I wanted the video to reflect the journey of this character, which is Eden, and she’s going through that experience, that space and we get to travel around with her.” In a gesture that mimics the confessional quality of Samara’s lyrics, both artists are committed to opening up the experience of Rough Night further, with the intention to release the game for anyone with a PC to play. Just as everyone coming to the game will witness Samara’s journey in a wholly singular way, the process of opening out the album into a sequence of immersive worlds sheds new light on the artist’s own experience of making the album. “The record follows me evolving into an adult, I guess in a nutshell it’s my own adult coming of age story,” Samara reflects. “Ultimatum was the first song that I wrote for the record, and summarises my headspace at the beginning of this period of change. I was very disconnected from myself and had to go on a journey of reconnecting back in. Funnily enough, that included a physical journey of relocating from Canada to the UK”. We see this relocation reflected in Podgorska’s level design, with the progression from the first stage of the game to the second, from ‘Ultimatum’ to ‘The Local,’ following Samara taking flight from her neighbourhood bar, touching down into the loving buzz of a new world teeming with life. Fittingly, it’s this same hub we find ourselves ending up at in the game’s final stages, a chance to return with new experiences and fresh perspective.
“The title track ‘Rough Night’ I also wrote early on, but purposely placed it last in the album track listing as a way to represent my eventual choice to come back from that place of disconnect and start actively participating in my own life again,” Samara says of the cyclical nature of the game. “Basically, you’re going through a bunch of fucked up shit but moving through that and navigating back to an emotional place where everything looks different, better, almost like going through stages of grief, where at first we tend to disconnect and then maybe hang out in denial for a while. Thinking that you’re back on track, you just end up partying all the time and fooling yourself that you have your shit together. Some of that partying is really fun and maybe cathartic, I’ve always found the dance floor healing. So there are lots of moments of joy too, and that’s also reflected in the music.” Ultimately, the internal worlds crafted by Podgorska exist to be explored at your own pace, a metaphor, perhaps, for the growing pains from which Samara draws inspiration from, the unrefined emotion that makes these songs hit so close to the heart. “It was a big challenge, being an album length piece,” says Podgorska. “It’s also a very interesting middle place of work for me. Usually clients just want to use my skills, whereas Eden also wanted my creative input. To have this thing where, I want it to be good, but also this artist is breathing down my neck because they want it to be good – I cherished this relationship. Thank you Eden.”
Rough Night is out now, on Local Action. You can find Eden Samara on Instagram, Bandcamp, and catch her performing tracks from Rough Night live for the first time on Wednesday, November 16, in support of Bodysync. Tickets are available now.