Back From the Bots

An Interview with Soundscape Orchestra

As electronic music twists and turns into more and more experimental and innovative states, Swedish ensemble Soundscape Orchestra combine dance music and jazz in an futuristic fusion fashion. Profet's Filip Lindström interviews the Orchestra's two masterminds, Adam Forkelid and Thomas Wingren, about their ideological approach to music, and about what is next to come for Soundscape Orchestra. Enjoy!

In the dawning of the age of electronic music, there were Kraftwerk’s thoughts of bridging man and machine – most surely derived directly from the industrial revolution proposing the new fact that mankind performs best with mechanical aid. As historians Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison have shown in their communal work »The image of objectivity«, the machine represented a virtue that the feeble man simply could not match. The idea of a musical sound fit to accompany the marriage between human feeling and robotic efficiency perhaps started with the immortal Düsseldorf quartet, but reached its peak about a decade after their uprising, with the emergence of Electronic Body Music – a style of electronica forged mainly to mechanize human emotion. The human part of the equation was heavily toned down, and we found ourselves with an almost entirely electronic genre, free from the initial ambition of linking the organic and the mechanic together.
        From there, electronic music certainly took many different paths, one of which resulted in the very provincial subgenre of Skweee – a type of semi animate dance music that only existed in the southern part of Stockholm city during a few years around 2003. If Kraftwerk tried to create a bridge between man and machine, the producers of the early new millennia attempted the building of a bridge back to man, back from the bots.
        Swedish group Soundscape Orchestra, who weren’t really a part of the Skweee movement, have in my opinion channeled the exuberantly experimental mindset of that genre in their own recordings, available on German/Italian record label Jazz-O-Tech.
        I get the two visionaries of Soundscape Orchestra on a video chat, to discuss their personal brand of electronica, which incorporates various traits of the above mentioned history of dance music in combination with jazz and contemporary art music. Pianist Adam Forkelid and percussionist Thomas Wingren have conducted the orchestra together for ten years.

»Nexus«, the title of Soundscapes 2018 debut album, describes the band’s sound and ambition quite well. The music is an intersection of a vast amount of expressions and impressions, tied together in one streamlined portion of art.
        »The Soundscape project has always been about intertwining different forms of music« Thomas explains. »From the beginning, ten years ago, we were a bigger group – hence the name ‘orchestra’. We played classical music, jazz and electronica in a kind of über fusion. It was fantastic, and a lot of fun, but it is a bit too cumbersome.«
        Since the inception of the band, they have narrowed their style from the initial »über fusion« to what it is today. The aspects of classical music have been removed, but the dogma of borrowing from various genres for the benefit of their own musical nexus has remained.
        Thomas Wingren is educated in afro-Cuban and afro-Brazilian percussion, but he has also been DJ:ing electronic music for decades. Adam Forkelid, on the other hand, is a celebrated jazz cat, known from diverse acts like Norrbotten Big Band and trio Lekverk. The very different backgrounds of Soundscape’s two driving forces tells a vivid tale of the sonic clash that is their union. Of course the result will be eclectic to its very core.
        »I have played a wide variety of styles« Adam says. »I grew up in a musical family, so jazz has always been around me. Fusion has always been present for me, and it just feels very natural to play.«

Soundscape Orchestra, with Adam Forkelid and Thomas Wingren sitting down.

When Adam mentions »fusion« as a genre, some names certainly come to mind. He brings up the giants of the jazz fusion field – among them Chick Corea and his Elektric Band, and Weather Report – and we agree upon the fact that these influences aren’t at all audible in Soundscape Orchestra’s work. Soundscape is absolutely fusing genres, but they can’t be defined as a fusion jazz band. Adam cleverly calls their music »Futuristic Fusion«, and explains why that term fits them so well.
        »I think our music looks more towards the future than the past. There are retrospective traits to the music, but essentially I believe we don’t really play fusion. Maybe new fusion.«
        I agree with Adam, but add that I think Soundscape Orchestra makes a kind of ideological fusion rather than a musical one. Their effort lies in the idea of a nexus, not in the recreation of a fixed genre.

»We’re in a dream situation right now« says Thomas when talking about the current state of the electronic music world. »There is so much going on. Progressive electronic music is in a phase now that is very innovative and filled with inspiration. There are barely any technical limitations anymore.«
        Thomas points out that the EDM and House movements of the past decade suffocated the scene in a way that cancelled innovation, but that dance music has begun to be more open for experimentation lately. The new roaring 20’s is a time of progression, revolution and invention, and Soundscape Orchestra is spearheading the wave in Sweden and in Europe, through the help of Jazz-O-Tech. One could definitely say that Soundscape is the label’s least electronic act to date, which marks an exciting turn towards a heavier emphasis on jazz. The band has just released the new EP »Oceans«, and are looking forward to performing live in Scandinavia and Central Europe during the spring and summer.

15 March 2022