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Q&A: Jatoma

By Kendah El-Ali on December 17, 2010


Q&A: Jatoma

Somewhere between the outer rings of Saturn and the ocean floor resides the steady, slow-rolling sound of a Danish trio known as Jatoma. Nodding to many electronic producers of yore, they chose to keep their identities a mystery until very recently, claiming instead that they were “Avidly Attentive Furie,” “Boy” (from The Burial at Thebes) and “Tiresias.” In reality, they’re two “super young” men and a well-known Danish producer otherwise known as Tomas Barfod, Mads Kolding and Jacob Littauer. Put out on Cologne techno stalwart Kompakt, their sound is a transport to dimensions beyond the five senses. At times deeply aquatic (“Bou”), other times whimsically strung together on recordings as diverse as chimes, cereal being poured in a bowl and the cutting of carrots, defining the music as electronic may sadly shut out ears that wouldn’t otherwise care to tune in. Their mastery of sound inflection is to the point of orchestral, and though the narratives switch from astonishing dance anthem (“Luvdisc”) to an intense trip through space (“Paper Lights”), it’s not to say the constant state of flux in which the album seems to be comes at the expense of comprehension. The wobble is rigged tightly on a patient sense of timing and rhythm (“Helix”), which means that the listener’s multi-faceted aural bombardment is neither anxiety-inducing nor noisy. Instead, it all plays out as a divine fantasy where the synthetic and the randomly recorded crash together in a frozen space-time continuum that’s as much rock and ambient as it’s fit for the disco. Dramatic though that may be, a sound that’s equal parts man, machine, alien and accident deserves no less of an introduction. FILTER had a chance to capture the elusive trio via Tomas Barfod to discuss their eponymous debut album.

What does Jatoma mean, if anything?

It's the first letters of our names: JAcob, TOmas, MAds. We didn't really know what to call ourselves and we had both a record contract and a finished EP even before we had a name, so we were in a hurry to find one. But, somehow it works well with the music.

The inflection of sound in this album is remarkable. That specific quality usually comes from producers with instrumental backgrounds. What are yours, from apart from electronic production?

We all play all sorts of instruments, also acoustic ones. On the album, there are many conventional live instruments like drums, guitar and keyboards—even vocals. However, they are just so processed and hidden in effects and edits it's hard to tell what they are. When we play live we also play a lot of the parts live. We are all kind of educated on an instrument; I think we could even be a jazz trio if we wanted to.

Please elaborate on not only the aquatic nature of your music, but also the steady relationship you create between drama and slow motion in your sound.

We always saw our music as more atmospheric—kind of like outer space—but I suppose the deep sea and outer space have the same of non-earthly and non-human vibe, and that is exactly how we hear our music. Even though we put a lot of human and organic sound into the music, the result came out completely different. The tension you detect in our music might be coming from the completely different worlds that we come from. We are like a boy band, or Village People. We each have our different, yet important, role. Mads is very spaced out. He can sit for many hours and nerd out on one sound, or find an old radio or keyboard and try to circuit-bend it to make it sound different. Jacob is super melodic. He’s [responsible for] all the epic parts of the songs. I bring the steadiness. If you have three personalities pulling in different directions, but working tightly together, there will be a diverse sound that has both drama and slow motion at once.

Where are your live sets the most successful? To huge crowds, or smaller intimate spaces? What does your live set look like?

Until now, we have only played clubs with between 500–1000 people, but we're pretty sure that our best gig would be if Sonar Festival hosted a stage at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. We would play between Ravi Shankar and Plastikman. We wear these old Greek theater masks, and we play all sorts of instruments. We often shift between instruments and computers, so one is not standing the same place for a full live set.

If you could score the soundtrack to any movie, what would it be? 

One of the biggest soundtracks I ever heard was There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood. But 2001: A Space Odyssey by Terry Reily, or Blade Runner by Vangelis are also great soundtracks. Maybe if Kubrick, Ridley Scott and Paul Thomas Anderson did a dark science fiction movie together, then we could do an amazing score… I’m sure.

What are you listening to these days?

The new Kanye and Nicki Minaj albums.

Looking outside your window right now, what do you see?

A lot of snow—we are in Denmark.

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