Neo-classical and ambient music has been having a moment. In a world where music can be accessed on-demand, all the time, there is more room for listening to music at home, in a library or at work. This lends to different listening patterns as people spend less time listening to music exclusively for partying, but instead for relaxation and focus. The girl from the lo-fi beats to study to YouTube channel has been studying for years to music similar to this. Hamburg-born Niklas Paschburg is part of a new wave of this sort of soothing music, releasing his debut album Oceanic just in 2018. Now he is back with his new album Svalbard that continues his piano-based music and expands into various, subtle electronic influences.
If you are into Nils Frahm or Ólafur Arnalds, two musicians he cites as influential growing up, then this album is for you. In this How It Was Made feature, he takes us into the studio to show off the various pieces of equipment used on this album. Often these albums feel like a cold winter day and that is exactly how this was made. He recorded the album in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
Listen to the album now and get your copy here.
The piano is my main instrument. I’ve written some songs on the upright piano in the picture (Gaveau from the 70s) and most of the songs in Svalbard on a Yamaha upright piano. But for the final recordings we recorded all piano tracks again on an old Yamaha upright piano, which stays in Andy Barlow’s studio in Brighton. Not sure from which age this piano is but it has some very unique touch and sound, which I’ve never heard from any other Yamaha piano before.
2. Hohner Student IVM Accordion:
I got this accordion as a gift from my grandpa who was playing it when he went to sea in the past. It slowly became a second lead instrument next to the piano. Over the years I’ve found a way to match that instrument to the piano and electronics and use it with different effects. On Svalbard you can find it in almost every track. Sometimes more in the back like a pad with a lot of reverb but more often it’s the lead instrument, which plays the melody such as in the song “Opera.”
3. Hohner Harmonium:
I bought this portable electric harmonium in a flea market 2 years ago. The design and color caught my attention and first I thought it would be just a nice decoration in my studio. But when I heard the sound, I fell in love with it. Luckily it fit perfectly into my suitcase when I was traveling to Svalbard and now you can find it as a distorted pad sound on several tracks on the album. The fan inside me brought a beautiful noisy atmosphere to a couple of songs.
4. Dave Smith OB6:
The OB6 is the most important synthesizer on Svalbard. When I was thinking to get a polyphonic analog synthesizer, the OB6 was my first thought and choice. I love the powerful, big sound, which is incredibly warm at the same time. For some reason I have a deep blue color in mind when I’m playing a specific pad sound on that synth. And that color matches exactly with the color I’ve experienced in the landscape of Svalbard. That’s why you can hear the synthesizer in every single track on “Svalbard.”
5. Korg MS2000:
The MS2000 was my very first synthesizer I bought in 2015. It’s an analog modeling synthesizer, which has some quite unexpected sounds. It was made especially for a dance/trance producer, but I believe the real strength of that synthesizer is ambient sounds. I used this synth on every song on my previous record since it was my only hardware synth. But now having the OB6, the MS2000 got a new feature as a vocoder. On Svalbard I used the vocoder function for the first time and I was amazed by the sound. I triggered the vocoder with my accordion, so it’s coming always with the accordion together. Best example would be the song “Opera.”
6. Telefunken Magnetophon 204TS:
I love tape machines! It feels good to leave the computer and digital world for a minute and record something on tape. For me it sounds immediately alive and more organic. And the best part is that you can touch the tape and slowly detune the recording with your hands or pitch the whole recording one or two octaves lower/higher with the speed. On Svalbard I re-recorded a couple of my pads with the tape machine to get “static” sounds more organic.
7. Battery 4:
To create my drum/beat sounds I used my own recorded samples most of the time. That can be anything from a real kick drum, snare, field recordings or just playing with drumsticks on a wood plate. I'm looking for sounds that have an organic sound and also a bit of dirt and noise. To play with these samples I used Battery 4 or I cut/ arranged the samples directly in my Cubase DAW.