Interview: Illum Sphere's latest album sees him in a new light

His album, 'Glass' is out now via Ninja Tune.
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Illum Sphere Press Shot Ninja Tune

Illum Sphere recently released his stunning album Glass via Ninja Tune and it's been on rotation this entire month. The project in its entirety has been captivating, and we had to ask the talented artist some questions. 

Hi Illum Sphere, thank you for taking the time to catch up with us! How are you feeling about your latest release? 

Hey, no problem. Feeling good, thanks. Not made much music for a while, because of the things needed to be done for the release, so am looking forward to getting back to that.

Every recent piece of article I've read has noted that you have a different 'situation and style' than you did previously, and you've definitely noted this yourself. What would you say has changed for you personally that has influenced your music?

I moved away, so the environment I was working and living in was completely different to anything I’d experienced before. My process of making music changed in terms of how much time I had available to do it and being somewhere new, spending more time on my own, allowed it to go where it was gonna go. Also, as I’ve mentioned a few times, I started to move away from the earlier sound as soon as that last album was completed. It wasn’t conscious, it just happened. I didn’t want to, nor could I, make another album like the first. I started drawing less influence from live instrumentation to focus more on a purely electronic record and it felt more natural.

As your second full-length project, what would you say was your biggest challenge in creating this piece? If you were to ever go into a third full-length release, what lessons would you want to remember?

This album came much easier than the first. Something changed after that first one was done, like a weight had been lifted. I also experimented under another alias and could see more clearly how I wanted to do things as Illum Sphere. There was far more music made for this record than the first, allowing me to remove the elements that were unnecessary. That’s the main difference I suppose. As for lessons learned, moving forward, I like the idea of using a rough palette of sounds album to album, maybe I’ll do that. But who knows.

"Thousand Yard Stare" is a nine-minute standout track that's simultaneously subtle in its style and sound, and still ready for those dark nights out. The track is a hazy mix between atmospheric and ready for a certain type of club, in a way, I can feel the long-distance staring seeping through from my speakers and find this a very visually stimulating song. Do you see your album through a visual, as much as an auditory context?

I like to make music that can visually stimulate, yeah. However, it won’t be stimulating for everyone, and that’s cool. With the earlier music I was more focussed on this, but with this album I wanted to let it work in multiple contexts: headphones, home, out, club, whatever. If this album is visually stimulating to people, then it’ll be for different reasons than the last record, as the structures and atmospheres are different. The last one had sharp turns and directed the listener a bit, whereas I think Glass leaves more room for the listener to navigate their own way to wherever they wanna end up.

Finally, It seems like the titles of the tracks explain a story about a journey, with the ending at Paradise. Do you see yourself going through this journey, or was the centered more through a music-based lens and more of a story for the listeners enjoyment? Paradise also has dark undertones, even when it has lush sounds that try to drown it out. Do you think this highlights your own thoughts about what Paradise can mean?

Kind of expanding on the answer to the last question, I like to use titles as a guide, or at least so people question the meaning behind them, the album, etc. That and trying to balance playing off light and dark can then allow the listener to put their own emotions onto it. Does Paradise mean it’s literal definition or the opposite? Is the Journey to a better place or not? I like exploring this ambiguity without forcing a narrative on the listener. It’s a trend I’m not too keen on and would prefer to save it for when I make an album that is entirely focussed around a specific concept. 

Glass can be purchased here!

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