Ösla is releasing Elko on December 29th, an ambient bedroom pop EP that we’re thrilled to premiere. The band is a duo between a songwriter and a composer/producer, Henry Armbrecht and Bradley Thomas Turner, from Utah. Their melancholic sound is unique, one that blends layers of Mellotron and spacious vocals. We had the opportunity to talk with Henry about Ösla and their creative process in producing this simplistic yet sophisticated EP.
One characteristic that makes this EP stand out is the prominence of the Mellotron, an instrument that was developed in 1963. It really shapes their sound and fits perfectly within their genre. Yet, this is not an instrument that you hear as a main instrument in other dream pop bands. “I’m not sure why it’s not featured as a centerpiece more often.” Henry agreed, while expressing his passion for this instrument, “I love the Mellotron so much. All of the sounds except for that synth lead on ‘Marina‘ and the Rhodes and Wurlitzer sounds are from the Mellotron.”
There is a richness to the sounds on Elko, and a large part of that comes from the authentic instruments that Henry used. These aren’t sampled Mellotron, Rhodes, or Wurlitzer sounds; instead of imitation, you hear the genuine connection between artist and instrument.
But there is so much more we appreciate about Elko. This EP utilizes space in a highly effective way, allowing the nice vocal ambiance to trail off, or creating a soundscape with bending Mellotron layers. It is the production and selectivity of this EP that I really enjoy in particular. Everything blends so well together on these brilliant bedroom pop tracks. There is a cohesion between tracks that isn’t heard on many albums, and for this reason I’ve found myself playing these songs over and over.
Armbrecht and Turner’s creative process
Henry Armbrecht began recording music and playing in bands in high school. About five years ago, he began writing and recording as Ösla. In 2018, he released a five-track EP, Moony, and toured to support the album. “The project in its current form feels like it started in 2018 when I started working more closely with Bradley Turner and we started touring together. It’s essentially been a duo since then.”
Outside of Ösla, his bandmate and close friend, Bradley Thomas Turner, is a professional composer and musician. Henry shared that Bradley, “is always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone, so there’s an interesting push and pull when we’re working on stuff.”
This push and pull within a duo where they challenge each other’s instincts can force artists to create sounds that they might not create if they were working alone. Henry is committed to minimalism, while Bradley admittedly fills a song with many instruments. The result is the sophisticated simplistic sound that defines Ösla. Backing this concept, Henry shared, “I almost feel like making anything other than minimal arrangements would be stepping beyond my depths as a composer.”
We talked to Henry about their creative process while producing Elko. Henry writes and records, “all of the keyboard parts. Bradley plays bass on most of the songs. I do most of the creative stuff and he mixes everything and provides general guidance on things. I write all of the music and but I bounce pretty much every idea off of him and he’s involved at every level.”
As for where Henry begins when he is writing music, he explained, “I almost always start with what eventually becomes the main instrumental theme of the song and try to build a verse from there.”
A closer look at Elko
The EP opens with Antelope Island, a track that combines Rhodes with the Mellotron sound, and a hopeful yet melancholic melody. “How far should I let this go? It’s difficult to let you know.” Henry’s drawn out vocal style works perfectly with the Mellotron chords.
The downtempo Strangers Talking follows the opening song’s melody concept. “I wouldn’t wait for someone new. I wouldn’t wait for you.” This song elevates the dynamics of the ambient vocals with the brooding melodies, and the full body of sounds that carry the song forward.
The theme continues in Pomelo, possibly the most ambient and subtle track. Marina was released earlier this summer, but is mixed differently for the EP. It’s a standout track, and signals a shift in the theme of the EP.
Amarillo brings the listener back to a simplistic scenery. “What’s just one more day in my room? I’ve still got some things left to do.” The instruments almost seem to come from behind you, vocals also pushing toward hard panning, leaving the center of the mix open for the ambiance to develop (a mix approach heard throughout the EP).
To be perfectly honest, I love everything about what Ösla has done on Elko. It’s subtle, selective, moody, and brilliant bedroom pop.