Over 20 years in the making… The story of Resound’s Rhytual
It starts with a brand new album: Axia
Today marks the launch of Rhytual; a new platform and label developed by Finnish artist Resound that’s been in the making for over 20 years.
The result of years of exploring the psychology of the creative process – and how best to navigate or refine it with the least amount of excess, ego or distraction – Rhytual is a reflection of Ilpo Kärkkäinen at his most honest and concise.
In his own words, it’s his ongoing work towards cystalising creativity that’s been brewing and stewing in the background of his consistent output of drum & bass releases since the early 2000s. Just as influenced by ancient Finnish folk tales as it is the future of humanity and discourses such as AI, Ilpo explains how Rhytual isn’t bounded to any type of genre or even format and he wishes to keep it as open as possible as it develops.
A few things are certain, however. He has years of material ready to drop on Rhytual and there’ll be a drop every Bandcamp Friday for the foreseeable future with sounds ranging across the spectrum from his more signature style of glacial breakbeat to techno.
And it all starts with a new album – Axia, an evocative full length instrumental album that reveals a whole other volume to Ilpo’s musical vernacular. Tapping into sounds and arrangements that hint at the some of the oldest ingredients of electronic music such as Kraftwerk and Detroit techno – it’s a deep and introspective body of work that captures a mood and sense of melancholy that inherently informs Rhytual. Digging deeper, it’s in fact a mood and melancholy that’s been part of the Finnish psyche for many centuries.
This is the story of how it’s come to be and where it might end up…
Take me back to the original idea of Rhytual. It started around 20 years ago, right?
That’s right. It wasn’t a clear idea or vision in the beginning, it was more like a feeling. It was 24 years ago when I was in the army. I was on guard duty in the forest. Isolated in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. Just me and my own thoughts. I remember thinking about what my identity should be as an artist and what my sound should be.
It was a strong feeling and it was the first time I thought like that. From there it grew slowly and has continued to progress to this day. It took me a long time before I started making the music and made something concrete. The first thing was probably about 15 years ago. I didn’t feel I was ready to put that out until very recently. I wasn’t ready as a person. Now through a lot of contemplation I feel ready to present it. For a long time I was just experimenting for my own enjoyment. Finding my own way of working. That’s how I have so much material in store.
Wow. You’ve been collecting these ideas, thinking and refining what Rhytual is and what it can be for all this time?
Yes. A lot of that was down to my own insecurity. Looking back it’s easy to say, ‘I should have done this 10 or 15 years ago.’ But that’s how long it took me and now we’re here. That’s how life goes sometimes.
Resound existed already though…
Yes. The first Resound releases came around 2004. Before that was doing things under different names since 1995. Resound as a name came about in 2001.
But Rhytual was always there in the background, waiting for you to be in the right headspace?
That’s a good way of putting it. Definitely the right headspace. I needed to mature a little perhaps to do it the right way.
And not rush into it. That’s a common trap.
Exactly. And I want to emphasize that I’m not finished already. Or that I’ll ever be. It’s a process that keeps going. I’ll continue to clarify things to myself and do better. Always.
Definitely! You introduced Rhytual as an alias a while ago didn’t you?
That’s right. I didn’t plan to do it as an alias first and then a label, it just happened and I realized I wasn’t comfortable having two different identities. Having to go through that thought process and ask myself what makes a Rhytual record and what makes a Resound record? The management of two different sets of social accounts. I came to realise it was easier to be Resound and have Rhytual as a label. It achieves the same thing, it gives me a platform and I don’t have to split my identity.
Yeah it allows you to be natural
Exactly. And people know me as Resound. Starting something from zero doesn’t make sense when I’ve been known as Resound for so long.
People who’ve followed you on that journey might be surprised or shocked or excited by this. Axia is like presenting a whole new canvas.
Yes it is but for me it’s not so much of a departure as I’ve been doing it for so long. I just haven’t presented it to the world. It’s very much who I am so I’m comfortable with that. I don’t have any expectations in terms of success or how it’s going to be received. Everyone will have their own judgements and listen to it in their own way and see how they like it. Some will like it. Some might not because it’s so different from the drum & bass I make.
For me it makes sense as it taps into a universal palette of sounds which is essentially Detroit. Or if we go back further, Kraftwerk. These are the parameters for my own reference points.
It’s interesting you say that. I’ve not thought of that in that way but I do agree with that. I definitely have a lot of respect for that stuff. I’m not familiar with a lot music from Detroit – I’m too busy making music and I prefer silence when I’m not making music. So I’m not very knowledgeable about the history of music but I do like that Detroit reference.
I hear you. For me, Detroit was about getting soul from the machines. Telling a story in an instrumental way. When I’ve spoken to people like Jeff Mills and Carl Craig I’ve learnt a lot about the art of reductionism. Taking away all the unnecessary fat and having the most honest, naked ingredients.
Definitely. And Jeff Mills is someone who’s a big inspiration for me. When I do listen to music he’s one of the few artists I do listen to. Removing excess is important. Getting to the core of what’s meaningful and getting myself out of the way of the music. Getting away from my ego. It’s impossible to do that completely but that’s what I strive for. Where there’s nothing in the way and you can let the music flow as naturally as you can. It’s a manifestation of how I want to live my life as well. For me the music is not separate. Being an artist is not separate from the rest of my life and that’s what it stems from… I needed to be in a good place in my life before I can get to a good place in my music. To have the clarity. It’s all connected for sure.
Yeah! I love that! So you’re trying to avoid certain trappings and distractions and false idols of the modern age.
Exactly. I want to get myself out of the way. The art doesn’t come from me. I’m the enabler, but I’m not in control. You might think that on the surface but I don’t know what is going to come out or how it will come out.
There’s a quote by Jung where he describes the artist as a collective man – one who carries and shapes the unconscious psychic forms of mankind. I came to that conclusion independently before I heard that quote. No matter how hard I try and shape things and do something specific it’s never going to turn out exactly like that. It’s easier to remove myself and that’s when the best things happen – when I succeed in not forcing it.
Yeah! That fits in with the time you’ve taken to do this. And not to be at war with your ego.
I agree. I think a lot of people are at war with their ego. It’s not easy. It’s a process and something to strive for. You don’t always succeed but over time you become better.
Have you found ways of being able to let yourself be free and embrace that type of flow state?
There’s so much to the flow state. Setting the right properties that enable that type of mindset so you’re not micro managing things. The music I do for Rhytual is created through a set-up which is the result of many years of experimenting. Now it’s at a point where it’s really easy for me to use this stuff and there’s nothing that gets in the way of process and sometimes the music happens by itself. There’s a track which is a generative track – I’ve set up properties but I’ve pressed play and just recorded what happens. It’s called Evolution. So things like that – they’re more recordings of tracks rather than programmed.
Oh wow that’s fascinating
That’s where I want to go to when I’m talking about the process and flow state. It starts from a live perspective. It came about because I realized how much I was just staring at a screen so I flipped my perspective to more of a live one and that clicked a lot of things for me. I started doing some live gigs from that process on. It turns things upside down; to start from a live perspective and then edit it into a track from there. Genesis, Machine Religion, Evolution and the Axia title track all came from live recordings with only a tiny little post production. If any. The rest are based on live jams. That’s my ideal process; to go as live as possible.
Yeah and then you have the human, tactile touch. This makes me think of the current discussions around AI and music. Deadmau5 and others have essentially said ‘now is the time for dangerous music that challenges formula as that’s something algorithms can’t predict that type of unpredictability. Does this resonate with you?
It does. It’s a fascinating topic. If you look at the titles of the tracks there’s references to that type of discussion. Are you familiar with the author Yuval Noah Harari? He’s written a book called Homo Deus which explores the future of humankind and where we’re going in the future. I recommend it highly. I do agree, too. It is definitely the time to do something very deep or dangerous that AI could not possibly do yet. It’s not been a conscious thought in my mind while I’ve been developing Rhytual but it’s clearly a strong element of the context. I think the rise of machine intelligence could simply be a continuation, and the next logical step, of evolution. That could be a danger from the human perspective. But I think we humans are our own worst enemy.
Definitely! So on the flipside to this, you’ve mentioned that ancient Finnish folk tales have also been a strong influence and inspiration, too.
Yes I’m fascinated by history and ancient things just as much as I am by the future. It’s all on the same continuum. I do enjoy Finnish folklore and we were lucky to have had a very active movement around 150-200 years ago where people went out across the country to collect the ancient poems and songs and archive them. It was when Finland started to become independent and people went into the forests to hear those stories. It’s since become one of the richest collections of its kind in the world. We have a lot to draw from here.
Wow. Has that created a culture or roles in society that still exists now?
For a while it wasn’t that fashionable. When I was growing up, it wasn’t seen as particularly exciting among my schoolfriends but for my family it was always a point of interest. My father made traditional Finnish instruments which I’ve been playing since the age of 6. So my folk music and culture has always been a strong part of my life but I was picked on at school a bit because of that! That was the climate for a long time but things have changed and there are some movements here which are reviving some of the old folk ways. Some of them are recognized as religious movements. Well, I don’t know if religion is the right word, but they are people who practice the old ways as a culture and community.
I hear you on religion. It’s sadly diluted by greed, corruption and lies. Control.
I’m not sure who said it but there’s a quote that rings true. ‘Religion is belief system that went wrong’. I believe that, too. It got so twisted over time that it no longer reflected its original values.
Yeah! This comes back to ego again doesn’t it? It’s interesting about the change of attitude towards history. We’re similar age and growing up in Wales years ago there was very little urgency to learn or celebrate the Welsh language. Now it’s become a huge thing and a real movement. I watched this amazing documentary lately though about a similar archiving movement that happened in Wales in the 50s where people went out to record songs and poems and it’s really interesting how different regions or valleys would have a different twist or variation on a them. Almost like a remix or something.
Yes that’s the same here. It is almost like remixing or perhaps sampling. People from different communities would get together and share songs and poems and they would play their instruments and drink for a few days. Me and some friends still do this now; we bring our DJ gear, isolate ourselves and have fun creatively so in many ways it hasn’t changed. It’s like something has been built into us over thousands of years and this is how we express it in our time. It’s a need to connect with people, to get together, to be inspired, to inspire people and to entertain. I’m not a researcher but I’m strong believer that this is an important part of humanity and hasn’t changed in a very long time.
Fundamentally that’s why people are drawn to festivals, I guess? Let’s conclude with an old Finnish tale…
I can give you one. It touches me and relates to my music as well. One of the most popular characters in Finnish folklore is Väinämöinen, a shaman figure who comes up all the time. He’s a powerful witch-like figure. He sings and he plays music and there’s a tale where he plays this instrument the kantele which I used to play as a kid and my dad used to build them. It’s a bit like a harp that’s played on the lap. He started playing and all the creatures in the forest came to listen. The bears, the birds, even the fish. Everyone came and listened. All the spirits came and listened. And everyone started crying because it was so beautiful and everyone started crying and he was crying and his tears went into the bottom of the sea. When everyone had finished crying he asked for his tears back and only one animal, the bluebill, agreed to get the tears and they had turned into pearls. That’s how pearls came to be and how the bluebill got its beautiful coat.
I like it because it reflects the melancholy of the Finnish people. It’s present in a lot my music and a lot of Finnish music as well. It’s a positive melancholy if that makes sense? It might sound sad to some people but for me it’s a force I really enjoy.
It’s important to embrace that reflective, poignant, sorrowful side of the human experience.
Yes and why I love old folk tales is that it proves these feelings and this part of humanity has existed for thousands of years. Nothing has changed. We still cry when we hear a beautiful song.
All the time! Do we embrace the power of story telling in music enough these days though?
Hmmm… Probably not in music, but we tell stories all the time. We don’t think about the stories we put out into the world and it’s something we should become more conscious of. Rhytual is a platform for the stories I want to convey. Stories are integral to our existence. It’s how we make sense of the world. If we don’t have stories the world would be so confusing! But we should think about how we tell those stories. Whether you’re writing or creating a song or posting on your Instagram you are telling a story. So I’m very conscious of that and how I do that in a productive, progressive way that might have potential to help others as well.
Definitely. I love this. Talking of stories – this isn’t a new chapter for you, it’s a new book.
It definitely is. I don’t want to define it too much either, I wanted to let it flow and see where it takes me and where it goes. It’s very exciting. I’m not planning to stick in any particular genre or style, it just needs to be the right mood and feeling and the whole process. That’s where I’m going. Let’s see where it takes us…