Hymnambulae is one of the multiple projects Pär Boström (Kammarheit, Cities Last Broadcast, Bonini Bulga ao) is involved with. Together with his sister, Åsa Boström, he set up this project to compose ritual music. The second full length album “Nausikaa”, released on their own label Hypnagoga Press, is a conceptual work meant as a ‘long-held vision to combine the electroacoustic ambience of Hymnambulae with voice recordings by the Swedish mystic, poet and translator Gunnar Ekelöf’. Even if there’re explicit ritualistic elements running through the work, it also sounds as a fascinating dark-ambient universe revealing a perfect balance between dreamy- and anguishing passages. My curiosity incited me to get in touch with the siblings to know a bit more about Hymnambulae and their latest creation.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Pär, first of all I would like to know what makes Hymnambulae different for you compared to your other projects you’ve been ever involved with?
Pär: One big difference is how concrete the inner world becomes. To be shared, for us to be able to collaborate, it needs to be more verbalised. Hymnambulae is very specific in its setting and theme. Some things remain on an abstract and intuitive level when I work alone, because I don’t need to articulate all of it, but here even the abstraction becomes tangible. If I look at the project as a map with specific locations, I know that Åsa is familiar with both the locations and their hidden meaning. It enables us to dig deep while also working more efficiently. There is also a slight difference regarding the instruments used.
Q: I can imagine as siblings you know each other very well, but how do you see each other as brother/sister and as ‘artists’?
Åsa: We know each other well, both as artists and siblings: each other’s background, universes and capacities. There is a built-in permanency in our collaboration, based on us being siblings and having similar creative backgrounds. Both Hypnagoga Press and Hymnambulae, are intended as lifelong projects.
Q: What incited you to set up Hymnambulae and was there a kind of initial purpose when it comes to music, influences, composition ao?
Åsa: Hymnambulae was founded in 2008. The first recordings and ceremonies took place at the Summer and Winter solstices. The initial purpose was to make ritualistic music. A ceremonial project combining music, writing, art. We have the same musical background, growing up listening to early dark-ambient, industrial- and classical music. We never intended for it to be a purely dark-ambient project.
Pär: The atmosphere of Armenian flutes, Gurdjieff’s dreamy harmonium, Arvo Pärt’s minimalism, the mystical poetry of Rilke and Ekelöf, were some influences. We wanted lo-fi, ritualistic improvisations, repetitive monotonous soundscapes, analogue tape. We aimed for something timeless. It has evolved, but the original intention is still there.
Q: Your debut album “Orgelhuset” released in 2016 sound a bit different compared to the new opus “Nausikaa”. How do you look back at the debut work and how did you finally evolve towards “Nausikaa”? What’s the input of each other?
Åsa: If “Orgelhuset” represents the present, our ceremonially combined mythologies, a personal mysticism; then “Nausikaa” is more retrospective. The invitation of an important source. Ekelöf introduced us to Western- and Eastern mysticism at an early age. We are both involved in all aspects of Hymnambulae – the music, writing, artwork. Pär has a more well-equipped music studio, so the albums tend to be finalised there.
Q: That brings me to speak about the poetry of Gunnar Ekelöf, which in a way is the concept of the new album. I found out he was rather anarchistic, that he loved the music of Strawinsky and the work of Nietzsche while his work was inspired by multiple influences. Tell us a bit more about the man, your fascination for his work and how you composed the music around his poetry?
Pär: His poetry, travels and concepts have influenced us a lot. The name Hypnagoga Press is a reference to Ekelöf. He introduced us to the term ‘the hypnagogic’. Ekelöf brought us to such specific locations early on. The desert, Parisian attics, Greek countryside chapels. He became a guide to mysticism, French poetry, religious iconography and architecture. To choose other paths.
Åsa: Nomadic paths. Being awake and alone at night, the turning towards in-betweens, the liminal, revelation. The inward journey and liminal spaces are central in our creative practices and our publications. Everything we return with is rooted somewhere else.
Q: How did the writing of this album happened? What have been the different stages and difficulties you’d to go through and what is the biggest satisfaction about “Nausikaa”?
Pär: “Nausikaa” has been growing in the background for many years. “Orgelhuset” probably had to be released first for this to fully emerge. The biggest satisfaction is that the album is published, realised. Having honoured Ekelöf! The album includes voice recordings with Ekelöf reading his poetry, licensed from The Swedish Radio. The main problem we encountered was the limited selection we had to choose from, that some of the poems we wanted to include has never been recorded.
Åsa: This publication has received a much-appreciated support from Ekelöf’s daughter, The Gunnar Ekelöf Society, as well as The Swedish Arts Council. The album doesn’t just impact our musical genre, but also Ekelöf’s heritage as a whole. Previous musical interpretations of his poetry have been through jazz or classical music. Our album introduces Ekelöf to more people.
Q: The album has been released on your own label Hypnagoga Press on different formats; CD, vinyl, cassette and of course digital. What do you like in each of these formats? Do you’ve a favorite one and what’s the point releasing a cassette in 2019?
Pär: I think the cassette format is perfect for our sound, as is vinyl. We reach different people with different formats and it enables us to experiment with packaging which is one of the things we enjoy the most.