If you dig laid-back electronica and immersive soundscapes full of emotion, Oaktree would have been a great artist for you to follow. Luckily, the man behind the moniker has broken the year-long silence with a message we like to hear: a new album announcement. Apparently, this news was a package deal with a name-change. From now on, you can call the Antwerp-native by his given name. Curious to hear where your favourite Belgian ambient act has been all this time (tl;dr in an isolated cabin) or what he sounds like now? We asked the artist for an interview and we got an exclusive track premiere to go with it:
Hi Adriaan, why the name change?
I’ve always played with the idea to release under my given name, it feels more genuine. Even though I made this new record before that decision, the time felt right, maybe because I hadn’t put out new music in a long time. This new music may sound different from what I’ve made before too, I find that hard to judge on myself. For me, it’s all still pretty much up the same alley, a continuation of a path I'm exploring.
How does this chapter then differ from the previous one?
Throughout the last few years, I received commissions for theatre, performance arts, documentaries,... Making soundtracks for stuff like this really had an impact on me. It gave me time and an excuse to just focus on sound and vibe, and play with a different sense of structure and time. I was allowed to let a track evolve at its own pace, without having to rely on rhythms or big melodies.
So does that mean we can expect an ambient album?
I wouldn’t say it’s a calm background record (laughs). It’s anything but easy to digest chill out music. Even though there’s no focus on traditional song-writing structures, some parts are actually really busy. Like I said: it’s more about the creation of a certain atmosphere, rather than delivering a catchy hit. And that atmosphere isn’t always comforting, I like to put in some annoying sounds as well, so in that way, it’s definitely not ambient.
It’s hard to focus when I’m in the daily routine of living and working in a city. I’m most productive when I’m in complete isolation.
On which label can we expect the record to come out?
I’m releasing it myself. I’ve come to enjoy this freedom of doing everything myself, keeping things small, using my own name,... Of course I can imagine some labels I would love to work with. But creating my own platform feels good. Music, publications, artwork, etc. Whatever it may be. It gives me freedom to work on my own, and maybe other peoples unfiltered creations in this way. It entices me to be creative in different ways.
You have this very peculiar way of making music in total seclusion. Is this the only way you can focus?
I’m most productive when I’m in complete isolation. It’s hard to focus when I’m in the daily routine of living and working in Antwerp. Coming home from a day of work, or just having some appointments or social contacts; that makes it tough for me to get into the right flow. So for the new record, I’ve gone to a cabin in the faraway village of Erezée in the Ardennes. I went there 4 times for around 10 days. When I’m alone in a secluded place like this, I get into a different mindset and I become so much more productive. In this cabin, there are no phones, no internet, no luxury (there’s a wood stove to keep me warm however) and most importantly, no other people. Even the convenience store in the village is a 6 kilometre bicycle ride away. I spend those slow days over are with producing music, going on long walks in the forest, reading books, contemplating stuff, cooking, listening to other music, etc. I’ve learned that the mindset you make your music in is really important for the outcome. This simple cocoon life has made my music more spacious and it has allowed me to get inspired by the most mundane, simple things in life. Or at least, things we tend to consider as simple.
Why don’t you move to a quieter place than Antwerp then?
I’ve thought about that, but I can’t bring myself to completely retract from the social life I share with the people close around me. I think this whole thing is rather a question of discipline. As long as I’m able to zone out in the Ardennes every now and then, this formula works.
We’ve seen you on stage as Oaktree with a full live band (that even included a harp). What does the show look like now?
I am very proud of everything we did with the band, and I really enjoyed that, but it was time to explore different ways of performing this music on a stage. I just did some solo shows, which was quite scary, but the freedom was so exciting. That said, the try-outs also made me realise that I needed an additional drummer. So now I will start rehearsing with drums. I’m building everything from scratch, basically. A live show shouldn’t be a fixed outfit for me; it should be a continually evolving formation that’s open to change.
So the track you’re premiering with us lasts for a whopping 15 minutes. How come?
This track was born when I was making the soundtrack for a light installation with Thomas from Nacht Collectief. It found place on Antwerp’s Grote Markt. It’s divided into 3 different parts, which I’ve linked to the ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ (‘Tuin der Lusten’, red.) by Bosch. This painting gave me directions when I rediscovered the track last year and decided to finish and share it: it’s about the origin of humanity, the moment we lose ourselves in beauty and our downfall. Not the most light-hearted material for a song, I know (laughs).
So what’s going to happen with you in the coming months?
The album is done and should hit the internet after the summer. I’m currently working hard on the live shows, which will start as soon as the release drops. Before that happens I still have a documentary soundtrack and other music to work on.