New To Us – Sea Lion

The advent of digital recording techniques has made bedroom productions, such as Sea Lion’s debut album Desolate Stars, a common method of making music. However, people making music from the comfort of their own home is a phenomenon that stretches back way before the universality of affordable recording equipment.

Arguably the best example of the joys of home recording could come in the shape of Beck’s masterpiece Odelay. Recorded in a tiny room at the home of production duo The Dust Brothers (N.B. not brothers or dusty), using an archaic version of Pro-Tools. Beck credits much of the albums ingenious use of samples with the computer being so slow that he had plenty of time to listen to music whilst waiting for it to save sessions.

Go back over a decade further, and you’d have found Daniel Johnston making one of the ultimate bedroom albums, his 1983 album Yip/Jump Music is rightly seen as a classic piece of lo-fi history, and whilst it perhaps didn’t show the sound quality that can be achieved in a home studio, it remains a definitive piece of home recording.

In more recent years the likes of Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, Hiss Golden Messenger’s Bad Debt and Iron & Wine’s classic debut, The Creek Drank The Cradle, have all been recorded in home studios. The decision to record at home not just a result of budgetary requirements, but an attempt to impart a certain atmosphere to the recording. Iron & Wine’s effort in particular is credited with Sam Beam finding his trademark hushed singing voice, in an attempt to avoid waking up his new-born child.

Increasingly home recording is becoming not just an option, but a necessity. Across the world without the help of labels or producers, people are making fascinating, progressive and high-quality sound recordings. The future of music might not be in the hands of manufactured pop-stars and major labels, but in teenager’s bedrooms in all corners of the globe, and even if you’re an analogue purist, you have to say there’s something exciting about that.

Sea Lion | Turnstile

Sea Lion is nom de plume of solo-artist Linn Osterberg.

Underpinned by intricate cyclical guitar lines, Sea Lion’s music is a masterpiece in minimal composition. Guitars play out slowly, giving the notes room to hang and ring out to their full potential. The instrumentation is rarely more than a pair of instruments, sometimes duelling guitar-lines interweave, sometimes pianos gently ring out full warm chords, and occasionally percussion breezes in and quickly departs. It’s all incredibly hushed; a light backdrop to the start of the show Linn’s stunningly beautiful voice, a blend of the Cassady Sister’s work with CocoRosie, Joanna Newsom and early Cat Power.

Linn is from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city. Famously the home of Volvo, Gothernburg was voted by Forbes as the twelfth most innovative city in the world. It is the home to both the incredibly good sounding Way Out West festival, and the incredibly loud sounding Metaltown. Gothenburg like many Scandinavian cities has an impressive metal scene, and has also given the world Jens Lekman, The Knife and Little Dragon as well as Ace Of Bass, and everyone’s least favourite anthropomorphic amphibian, Crazy Frog.

Whilst Linn has most likely been making these songs in her bedroom for many years, it was only last year, with the release of two EP’s on Turnstile, Cobra Eyes in June and Big Moon (Early Songs) in October, that she shared them with the world. Last month she released her debut album Desolate Stars, again via Turnstile.

There’s something completely out of kilter with the current musical climate about this record. Whilst music is going through a loud, brash in your face moment, there’s something delightfully still, timeless and unshowy about Desolate Stars.

The album was recorded by Linn entirely alone in her bedroom, and that certainly plays a part in the atmosphere that the record creates. It feels intimate, as if you’re listening into her deepest secrets as she half whispers into the microphone, and seems to barely touch the guitar such is the beautifully crisp and carefully chosen sounds she produces from it.

It’s an album that’s more about moods and atmospheres than it is individual songs, an album that draws you into a particularly twilight head space. It starts with the sound of someone tuning an analogue radio, and then takes you on a journey through blissful dream-pop in the mould of Mazzy Star, or Beach House at their most minimal.

It’s the tiny details that make this album such an intriguing prospect; the distorted almost discordant guitars at the end of He Wears A Smile, the distant synths of Ghostland that sound like howling wind, the impressive and unbelievably-high second vocal melody on Baby’s Town. An album that hangs together as an atmospheric whole, and yet also contains numerous intricate details that slowly reveal themselves on repeat listens. This is perhaps best summarised by the wonderful penultimate track, Room, where gently plodding piano chords and buzzing background noise combine to a stunning whole. All in all, Desolate Stars is a rather magical album.

Why Not?
At times, with Linn’s thick accent and hushed singing style it can be a real strain to pick out the lyrics, and when you do make them out they’re a rather cryptic affair, not matching her melodies natural tendency to sound incredibly sad. Neither is it an album that’ll have you jumping out of bed in the morning, but as a beautiful mood piece it’s pretty much unparalleled.

Desolate Stars is out now on Turnstile.

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