Genre-bender and nature lover Outercosm opens up on their approach to production and musical emotion.
“I try to make stuff that feels like I’m wandering. Not knowing what’s happening but being okay with it – That’s what I want to draw out. Something comfortable”. Outercosm admits, sharing his ethos at the start of our interview. Summer is drawing to a close, and with this transitional period comes a renewed sense of focus and clarity. Things seem to get busier as Autumn approaches, so it’s important to take the time to breathe and relax. Outercosm’s music captures this emotional need perfectly, with their soft experimental songs lulling the listener into a trance, setting their mind adrift.
This internet-based producer has a unique way of viewing and writing music, confessing “I don’t usually go in with too much of a game plan. I’m trying to find a more concrete way of doing stuff”. He adds on to this statement, explaining bits and pieces of his process; “Usually most of my ideas start with me just sitting down and fucking around with guitar. I play something on guitar, get confused by it, then figure out what I’m trying to do”. This experimental process lends itself well to wanderlust emotions in his music: his songs can feel aimless at times, but there’s a certain beauty in the freedom of structure and sound. Songs like “11” and “mountains” demonstrate this, with their unpredictable melodies but soft atmospheres. You might not understand where you are, but you have the space to relax and enjoy the moment.
Certain sounds and textures crop up time and time again in his pieces; piano and acoustic guitar appear in nearly every song, alongside natural foley and spacious pads. He talks more in-depth about his inspiration and musical choices, saying; “I’m really interested in cyclical movement – in nature and life and stuff. Patterns in nature that occur are a big influence on me. You could say all music comes from the harmonic series”. Their fondness for the natural world is ever-present, from the smaller touches of natural samples; “Organic sounds and things with foley – I love that”, to the very core of how he writes his pieces; “I layer individual guitar notes into different patterns – if they play all at once they play a chord”.
In this way, his music is built from the ground up with a reverence for nature, working with stable loops in tandem with a degree of randomness to emulate the ebb and flow of the Earth. In particular, his track “for us” is a perfect demonstration of his mindset – with it’s mixture of unpredictable guitar and piano melodies that seem to transform over time. There’s a sense of warmth in this song, perhaps due to the near-constant forest sample underlying the music. Also worth noting; Outercosm brings in some more experimental textures as the song progresses: applying bitcrush to the piano and adding a simple pluck synth melody. This strays from their focus on natural sound, but to me only adds to the atmosphere- bringing to mind imagery of tranquil videogame forests.
This blending of the analogue world and the digital world seems to stem from their musical inspirations. “I’m very very interested in blending acoustic and digital sounds. All of those timbres are really important to me” they explain. These days, they enjoy “really complex, batshit crazy” music- their taste encompassing jazz, IDM, bluegrass, and 20th century classical composers such as Pat Metheny. They go on to say; “One of my biggest musical influences in terms of rhythm is Frank Zappa – he did a lot of odd time-sig stuff”. The use of looping melodies and odd rhythms in Outercosm’s music can be traced back to these Jazz inspirations. This is more of a recent development, as they explain; “When I was younger, I listened to a shit-ton of techno. I was really into dubstep, like Skrillex and shit – and I think that was what really got me into production”. Like many producers, they still hold a fondness for their earlier inspirations, and wear them on their sleeve. By fusing the digital sounds and samples of dubstep and techno with the acoustic sounds and structures of bluegrass or jazz, Outercosm walks the line between and creates something fresh. Their track “phone call” is a great example of this, with the bluegrass guitar perfectly combining with the electronic drums, soft synths and minimalist piano – it feels like a peaceful respite within our online lives.
Outercosm’s songs don’t tend to stick around for too long, but they get to the heart – the emotional core – instantly. Their floating, atmospheric songs instantly demand attention, asking the listener to reflect and look inwards. “I make music about my friends and the feelings in my life” he says, before explaining; “I have lived a lot of my life as a negative person – the emotions I draw out I want to be the antithesis of that”. This strive for comfort and joy can be felt in the music itself. Nearly every song in their discography, from “big castle” to “for us”, captures this feeling. They tend to have a softer, sombre emotional core that teeters on the verge of sadness, but with heartful bass and driving rhythms that pick the mood up and move things forward. Their music paints a good picture of their ideal to work through things with a positive outlook. This ties into their love of nature; “I like things that grow. Nature in general. Music grows too- melodies and ideas develop and change”. Opening up, they admit “Music is the only thing that gives me motivation to do anything”, explaining why they pour so much emotion and effort into the songs they write. Their music is built from their personhood – their inspirations, outlook, and how they view the world.
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– Gray (@polygoncove)