Arthur Oskan traps gravity with his electronic concept album, “Lagrange Points”
Arthur Oskan likes to experiment with his music. This is known from his first album release, after which he has approached singles with thematic brilliance. His 2015 EP Modern Scandal has a collection of tones and notes that tantalise as much as they help you escape into another dimension. This is his latest concept album, Lagrange Points.
How did you arrive at the interesting concept of translating cosmic points in and through music?
I didn’t decide to come up with a concept before sitting down to write Lagrange Points. Later, listening to the recordings in the series, I felt the release as a whole touched on elements of tension and attraction. L1 for, example, has a certain unease and stillness before feeling like you’ve finally been launched on your journey.
I realized that each track had its own amount of this “push and pull”, moving through time at different speeds. As I researched how this phenomenon would occur in space, I stumbled upon the Lagrange Points. Each point has its own gravitational pull and effect on other objects in space.
For those who are uninitiated to the world beyond worlds, here is the catch-up. Lagrange Points are five specific points in space where the gravitational forces of two large celestial bodies balance the centrifugal force felt by a smaller object. It is an incredibly precise math, and there is a beauty in knowing its unfurling. Arthur Oskan shows you a different compositional dive with each of these 5 points. They become the crux and core of the album, these points around which it all revolves. The first single is Uninterrupted View(L1). It creates an incredible echo around the anticipation, this surface tension of deep space exploration. There is a lot of build, especially Arthur taking us to space being one. Close your eyes, and imagination might do your job for you.
Understanding Arthur Oskan & his toolkit
Tell us your journey since The Auracle Sessions, especially through your composition styles.
Interesting that you mention that. Frankly, I think I’ve come full circle since recording under Auracle.
Back in 1993, I was working with analog gear exclusively. I got an inexpensive, used Atari 1040 STE but never really got into using it as I still found hardware sequencers were much more immediate. At the time, I had an EPS16+ keyboard sampler that was at the heart of my studio. It has a state-of-the-art sampling engine for the time and a fantastic effects section. Along with its 8-track midi sequencer, I was able to drive all my hardware machines with it.
Around that time, my studio consisted of an Akai S612 sampler, a Roland JX3P polysynth, Roland TR-606 drum machine, and a TB-303 Bassline along with some effects). It wasn’t much, but it was what I had. However, what I loved about this setup was how simple it was to compose the ideas in my head; muting/unmuting midi tracks, tweaking the gear, and performing each track live to DAT.
By the mid to late 90s, my studio grew to include a whole host of analog synths and drum machines, but it was at this time I began using a computer as my master clock and recording my studio performances directly to hard disk.
Over the years, many of the same principles stayed the same. I would perform my tracks and record the data to the computer as both MIDI and audio. This gave me the freedom within Ableton to elevate my compositions, allowing me to mix clips and takes so I could create more complex arrangements.
Today, I compose my music on a small Eurorack modular synthesizer. I built the system with performance in mind so I feel more connected to the moment when creating. I do have plans to expand it, but I’m in no rush and it’s still a learning experience for me. Honestly, I prefer the limitations it presents. There’s no MIDI and once it’s unpatched, it’s like a blank canvas.
The music will guide
In Unstable Time(L2), we go slightly closer. The digital development is more complex, though we breathe into each moment with care. It is one of the longer tracks for this reason, you’re making the travel with Arthur Oskan. The lead explores slightly outside the bubble, ensuring you still get a taste of space travel through electronica. As we move to Planet X(L3), there are new rhythms that organically come across. The sensitive pockets change their style and sound with each coming moment. Modulations will allow you to feel the full impact of this gravitational body. The surety of precision and the groove comes with Stable Orbit (L4).
In the second track called Unstable Time, you build tension with a clock like instrumental layer. Which was the most challenging composition to create?
I think each piece has its complexities. They were all recorded live in one take. As there are no automation windows or pre-recorded sequences happening, I’m limited by only having two hands!
In Unstable Time, the notes are actually being played live by varying the amounts of voltage being sent to an oscillator. Eurorack systems (as many users will say) are synonymous with happy accidents. I also find them akin to guitarists figuring out complex chords on a fretboard, fumbling, and figuring out where to place your fingers, praying you get it right. I love that in performing this way, there always comes a chance that things may fall apart for you. And if it does, the real challenge is getting things back on track.
You’re now closer to observation, with the kind of dreamy tones that take over. Ensuring a clear window, the progression has more detailed melodies wrapping themselves together. There is a meditative part of space you’re allowed to see, thanks to Arthur Oskan. Some incredible visions come to mind with music like this. Left in wait, you appreciate the presence for as long as the track goes.
Agamemnon (L5) closes out the album. We get closer, and the anticipation builds. It is much more tense, the blob of ink in between the bodies is disappearing. Arthur calculates this very carefully, with each song meditating on the implication.
An expansive soundboard
The passage of time-when do you know a certain instrumental pocket is reaching saturation, so as to transition to the next? Is this something that is more intrinsic now?
Going with feel makes the most sense for me. Every sound or effect can be presented in different ways. It all comes down to the sound design being in service to the composition itself. Reaching a peak, or “saturation” can also present in different ways. For example, amplifier distortion could present a more aggressive or edgy sound, where say soft-clipping or tube saturation tends to grace tracks with a warmer overtone or drive. I tend to make these types of sonic choices on the fly to allow the tracks to shift through different emotive states. I cut subtly and move the tones in whichever way fits best.
What exciting topics do you aim to translate through music next? Maybe another cinematic transgression like The Auracle Sessions?
They’ll most certainly be cinematic in nature. As for future concepts, I’ll let the music itself guide them.
Arthur Oskan has developed a new way of bending the limits of electronic music. His thought process is far ahead, refined and resolve oriented. It is immensely gratifying, hearing an album like this. He has clarified a small bit of space for me, with this album. Listen to the songs here, and follow him for more interesting concepts to be explored!: