With all the tortured soulfulness of a classic house vocal over the blatant bootycall of grime’s pared-down beats, Kissey (Asplund) comes on like an enticement half heard from a dimly lit apartment window.
Previously collaborating with SBTRKT, Machinedrum, and the brilliantly named Zed Bias and Dorian Concept, Initiation EP is Kissey striking out solo, finding her feet and moving them to a rhythm all her own.
An exile of the crystal cityscape of Stockholm, Kissey has set up shop in New York, marrying her Scandi-fragility to the muscular, thrusting bustle of the Big Apple. Like fragments from the kind of dreams that leave you smiling all day, Initiation’s videos offer a vision of sensitive but uncensored female sexuality a world away from the porn-pop of her contemporaries. The Initiation EP leads you irresistibly into her world, a dusky dreamland of mounting anticipation and glistening glissando. Read as a sentence, her EP track names tell a story of innocence lost and experience gained all under the cover of darkness.
Come Nightfall sets up a powerful seduction that draws you in helplessly, the beat becoming insistent as the foreplay yields to Dance the Pain Away’s demands to Fuse in Love & Ecstasy. Initiation’s serotonin-saturated surfaces press firmly against you, carrying you to the centre of whatever dancefloor you happen to be near. The experience can be unsettling – the sinister Fuse could be the animal call of Scarlett Johansson’s alien in Under the Skin just before feeding, and fittingly Kissey has ambitions to soundtrack films, her cinematic soul opening up expansive spaces in the minds of her listeners. Holding together all this fragility is an insistent, filthy beat that is equal parts hormonal human heart and the midnight murmurations of the metropolis. It’s a heady mix, and Flux caught up with Kissey to get an insight into the mind behind the music.
Your EP’s called Initiation. Is it your initiation or ours?
“It’s the start.”
You made the brave move to strike out on your own and produce your own beats. How does it feel to have complete control over your work? Are there any drawbacks?
“I enjoy both ways of working – when I am produced by someone, I get the rare opportunity to exist in someone else’s world and see how I can be interpreted, and I find there is a lot of strength in collaboration. I initially started producing to create references of where I wanted to go, and it turned out I really enjoy doing it. I think as a creative you never have complete control, the work has more control of you, it’s very much about letting go and accepting.”
Do you have any plans to collaborate or you happy to go it alone for now?
“I am always open and I do both still, it’s all about whatever the song calls for, what the lesson is about. Last week I sang some classic styled vocals for the Martinez Brother’s for their Givenchy Men’s S2015 show that walked in Paris. My upcoming album I’m writing, producing and performing all myself, but I’m working very close with my mastering engineer Simon Francis, and on top of that I produce a couple of other artists on their projects.”
You’re naked in a lot of your videos. Is this a personal choice, or something you feel obliged to do as a female performer?
“I am a creative – an artist – and I never feel as if I “have to” oblige, especially when it comes to music and creation. For example, in the discussions for ‘Fuse’ the director, Ellinor Stigle, wanted to create a video that was showing the female body in a different light, for it to be about the feeling of when you are lost in the ‘act’ (which the song is about), no matter gender, and I feel like that is rarely shown in our society. And referring back to my answer for the previous questions, it’s all about the song, the video, the painting, the sculpture, the piece.”
‘Dance the pain away’ is like a PG-rated Peaches, and your arrangements remind me of 90s house and dark electronica. Which artists and genres do you listen to the most?
“Just before I wrote that song, I had listened back to a lot of acid and Chicago house. This week I’m listening to different alternative electronic pop-r&b for some DJ-mixes. And at home here’s a lot of Ta-Ku playing, Nicolas Jaar, Kelela, still going strong, Freddie Gibbs, Moderat, Miles Davis. I like checking out what the ‘The Vinyl Factory’ is up to, and a lot of classical string and piano music. A nice little pot of everything simply, I wander around.”
Can you tell me a bit about the origins & philosophy behind KISSKISS Records?
“I had worked with both Bella Boo and Danna Takako for a while and it was a very natural progression to start a label. Our first release was November 2013, we have a very strong belief in creating an ‘artist friendly’ thing, and we believe in taking time to engage and develop projects and people; that the creation and music comes first, because that creates quality. And we think listeners appreciate “quality”.”
Who else have you signed to the label & whom would you like to?
“Next up is Swedish r&b singer extraordinaire, Beldina. We are super excited about her project. More info soon…”
How did your music end up on Sundance Breakthrough winner Dear White People?
“Best Christmas present I’ve ever received! An email popped end of December in that they (Justin Simien and Paul Stuart) wanted my two unreleased tracks ‘Forget’ and ‘Melting Pot’ to be in it. Then it was super indie, hardly any budget and now it’s been picked up and it scheduled to show all over the US starting mid-October.”
Your music has a cinematic quality, which reminds me of a grimier, darker italo disco. Is scoring a film something you’d be interested in?
“I would love to score a film, to combine electronic drums and baselines, with an orchestra and a choir. One of my friends always plays this “behind the scene” recording of Yann Tiersen when he’s writing/recording the music for the movie ‘Amelie’, and I always feel as if I want to be in that room and hear it. It sounds like a magical experience.”
Your music has a real night-time feel. How do you prefer to while away the dark hours?
“I love to dine, whine [sic?] and dance my NY nights away, that’s when I have time to see my busy creative friends, that’s when I find inspiration, that’s when I fall in love. I feel like I can hear music better, conversations and laughs are better and more. You can become and blossom into whoever you want to be in the shield at night in NY, that’s why people stay here even when the city kicks your ass at times.”
How does the Stockholm scene differ from NY and how has each place influenced your output?
“The two cities have very different tempo and they are very different in size. Stockholm is slower and has 1.2 million inhabitants; NY is faster and has 10 million. Stockholm is cleaner, NY is grimier. Stockholm is more uniform; NY is full of independent crazy people. I think we change and transmit the inspirations that lay around us, and yes it has totally transformed my music to move to NY, made it faster, darker, the sounds I chose change and the parties that I go to with my friends inspire. But with that said, I don’t think I would have been here today if I hadn’t grown up in Stockholm.”
Finally, what are your plans for summer?
“Wrapping up my remix-mixtape that is coming out soon, working on my album, DJing and performing.”
Initiation is out now on KISSKISS Records
Hear tracks for yourself here below:
words Alex Murray