The Danish atmospheric post-rock duo Nordsind have packed a thoroughly moving journey on their debut full-length album Lys, which means “light” in translation and is available now. The compelling record feels like it’s urgently searching for peace as otherworldly clouds of light and darkness intermingle.
Below, check out a studio playthrough video from Nordsind for album closer “Ilddåb,” and scroll down from there for a chat with the musicians responsible for Lys.
The meditative track featured in the playthrough feels personal, with a sharp focus underlying the contemplative melodies, but the perspective seems rather grandiose, like peering off towards a fog-covered horizon that proves strangely alluring. Diving into the song, which is quite strongly constructed no matter the inward malaise, is like subconsciously hearing some kind of spiritual beckoning.
The path that the music lays down appears clouded over, with shimmering yet foggy tones throughout the emotive work and an overall captivating atmosphere. With their broad sound underpinned by strain, Nordsind create an impression of a solitary emotional outpouring in some expansive environment like a dewy hillside, as though quietly crying out to the sky and surroundings for some kind of relief.
On “Ilddåb,” Nordsind stick in part to a mid-range to slower pace, seemingly focusing on points just after peaks of the most raw emotion. The duo’s music is entirely instrumental, but even in the absence of any words, the quite dynamic performances feel compellingly communicative, with snowstorm-like guitars that feel formidable and emotionally unsettling alongside thoroughly resonant and commanding drums. After getting thicker and blustery around the minute-and-a-half mark, “Ilddåb” closes on a soaring and forceful note, transforming some of the abrasive fog into a jolt of heartrending power.
As suggested by the album’s cover art, which depicts some apparently occult scene in a shadowy yet moonlit forest, Nordsind sound like they’re settling into some kind of esoteric reverie following painful travails. The music consistently moves forward, as though propelled by an unseen yet clearly felt brightness, and while a bit overcast, “Ilddåb” also feels spiritually refreshing. The energy is briskly electrifying.
Nordsind features Asger on guitars and Ole on drums. Order their new record, which is available via some half a dozen labels worldwide, at this link.
Check out the studio playthrough video below!
Check out the full Q & A with Nordsind below!
Emotions Within Lys
Captured Howls: Hello, and thanks for your time! Lys is very compelling. On a broad note, how would you describe the sort of emotional core of the album, in the absence of any lyrics? The music seems to feature a very heavy atmosphere.
Asger: Hi. Thanks for having us.
We always talk a lot about what images we see or what feelings emerge when listening to music and that has really impacted how we approach our songwriting. We try to bring a cinematic quality into the songs and have them tell stories, solely through the music. They have to facilitate a bit of daydreaming.
We wanted a theme that could embrace something a bit broader than what we had worked with before but still suit the overall aesthetics of the band.
The theme on this album is light, and every song reflects an aspect of our perception of the word light. We touch on a lot of subjects, stuff like the science behind light, coming out of depression and the spiritual journey that staring into the sky can take you on. The constant is that the music has to resonate with that melancholic and melodic atmosphere that is the core of Nordsind.
Ole: What Asger said. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety since 2016, and I was in a really bad place during the writing and recording of this record. When Asger suggested “Lys” as the title I didn’t get it at first, but for me it became really personal. The struggle and journey to come out of a dark place (including winter) just made a lot of sense in the end. Now I look back and everything just makes sense. And then on the other side, the record means something totally different to Asger, and I love that.
CH: To take a cue from the forest imagery on the album art, the music feels like a rather fully-defined and ambitious journey. It sounds, to me, like you were hoping to make the sounds of the instrumentals themselves particularly emotive, no matter the absence of any lyrics. Am I on the right track there?
Asger: For sure… Even without lyrics, there still needs to be something that draws in the listener, and I feel like we try to achieve that by being aware of how the playing affects the atmosphere of a certain part or the entire track. I have no desire to create something that doesn’t feel alive, and so I try to let my feelings spill over into the playing, but also, as you mention, the artwork, the videos and everything else surrounding Nordsind. It’s all connected, and we take great pride in that as a band.
Ole: Like Asger said earlier, we’ve always been about creating imagery and creating a story for the listener. Basically telling a story without using any words. Lyrics always dictate the mood of a song, no matter how the music is. The music can be a really happy pop song, but the lyrics might be dark and depressing, and the listener will mostly only take in the dark lyrics and not hear the music.
We always get different reactions from people. Some think it’s depressing, melancholy, or extremely positive, because we don’t dictate how the listener should feel. What Asger and I get from the music might be very different from the listener, and I really like that.
Constructing the Journey
CH: There are some moments, like the intro and closing of track seven [“Midnatssol”], that felt surprisingly heavy, considering the atmospheric post-rock elsewhere on the album. What was your thinking like behind those heavier moments? Were you going for a particularly forceful impact?
Asger: When writing Midnatssol, I had this idea of a sun that exploded, and the intro and outro represents that. I’m a huge sucker for that whole loud-quiet-loud-quiet that bands like Radiohead are known for, and I guess we just beefed that up as much as we could. Having both balances the songs and allows us to explore a lot of different directions musically — both melodic, heavy, calm and ferocious — and putting them back to back will make each of them seem way more powerful in their own way. Midnatssol is a great example of this, because it features some of the most hectic playing, but also some very melodic parts. So yeah, it’s a very conscious choice..
Ole: Midnatssol is actually a really old song. We have been playing that song live for a long time. I love that song. I wanted that song on the album right from the start. Despite it being on the heavy side, it’s really cathartic to play live.
I was on a camping trip with some of my best friends one summer. We drank, smoked, danced etc. When the sun came up, me and my best friend stripped down and jumped in a lake. I felt completely overwhelmed by happiness, and was like “I am right where I need to be.” Midnatssol always brings me back to that moment.
Asger: I love that story, and we actually changed the title of the song because of it. Initially I wanted to call it Solstorm, which means solar flare, but seeing it as a part of that story just resonated so much more.
CH: Do you feel particularly attached to purely instrumental music as a creative form? With your utilization of these lyric-less musical journeys, would you say that you’re hoping to craft a listening experience that feels at least somewhat open-ended?
Ole: When Asger came to me in the beginning, asking me to put some drums on some music he was working on (the “Efterår” record), I was completely down with it. Both Asger and I come from the metal/ hardcore scene, where you get that “Well, the music is great, I just don’t like that screaming” from non-metal listeners, and I was sick of hearing that. So I thought cool, You want clean singing, you want a front man? Well, we are not gonna give it to you. But we will still write catchy songs.
Personally, I thought of Nordsind as a challenge, because I have always been in the metal scene but grew up and started as a jazz and musical drummer. So I thought it was cool to dive into some different things other than blast beats and breakdowns.
Asger: Yeah, I guess it’s a mixture of defiance and exploration, but instrumental music always has a profound impact on me. I connect with the music in a different and more intense way. Like you say, it’s open-ended, I get to write my own story line for the music, and that’s very appealing to me, both as a musician and as a listener.
Catharsis and Exploration
CH: I feel like, in the modern world especially, the kind of ambient peacefulness associated with at least some of your music and the natural world-associated imagery connected with your project in general can occupy a particularly poignant place. Taking space for contemplation can be powerful. Would you say that there is a level of catharsis in the music, even if that feeling is not conclusive, necessarily?
Asger: For me music is very cathartic. I’m not great at taking breaks, I always just power through, but music has always been a way for me to power down and sort of find myself again. Listening to a great record or playing guitar and watching rain run down the window can be extremely peaceful, but I guess most people can relate to that. Still, it’s important to find that space, and if our music helps other people get there as well, I would count that as a win.
Ole: Oh yeah for sure. I love playing music, and playing shows is really like a meditative state for me. Just completely shutting down for 40 minutes and getting overwhelmed by emotions during the show. Connecting with your bandmates through music is like a different language. Watching the crowd and engaging with them is just amazing. We found out pretty early on that our crowd is very mixed. There is the metal crowd, some people our parents’ age, the young scene kids and the suit and tie folks, and it’s amazing to be involved with them all for 30-50 sweaty minutes.
CH: A lighter question that I like to ask: What music — of any style, genre, time period, etc. — have you really been connecting with lately? What’s been on your heavy rotation lately?
Ole: I have a pretty diverse taste in music. At the moment I really like blackened deathcore. Lorna Shore and Shadow of Intent really got my attention last year. Great drumming, great atmosphere. It’s just heavy and brutal, no BS.
But again, Explosions In The Sky, Listener, and Russian Circles are something I always come back to. I don’t know. It really depends on the mood and how stressed out I am. The last two weeks I’ve been going through all the old Counting Crows records.
Asger: I’m really digging the Danish black metal scene at the moment. So many incredible bands; Afsky, Møl, Nyredolk, Morild, Sunken… the list goes on. I highly recommend people check out that scene. I think a lot of that melancholia that is present in Nordsind is also present in these bands. I guess that’s part of the attraction for me.
The newest Caspian album is also in heavy rotation here. Oh yeah, and Pink Floyd has gotten a big revival as well. It’s likely a nostalgic thing, but I can get completely lost, in a good way, in a Pink Floyd album.