Shel is a London-born, Iceland-based composer and musician. He recently released the debut album titled Disconnect which is out now via Whitelabrecs. It follows the self-released EP ‘Lucid’ in 2018 and the primary instrument is the piano. It was mixed by Swedish artist Mikael Lind.
Disconnect is one of the best debut albums of this year. The fragile electroacoustic lines bring the listener in an undefined realm of dream. The sound is designed around minimalist textures and dynamic rhythms with both bright and melancholic moments. The balance between the piano lines, the electronic veils, the strings fluidity, the melodies and the fragmented flow of some tracks are pure poetry.
According to the press release, when creating these works the artist was informed by his thoughts around identity and how we perceive it as a whole. Do places of origin matter? He moved around a lot as a child and at times, felt he had no roots which left him feeling very disconnected at times. Some years on and settling in Iceland, he now realises the valuable lessons and skills the experience has brought.
We asked him to do a short list with five songs wihich inspired his music. Check also the full streaming of the album below.
Mikael Lind – Burst of Electricity. I saw Mikael Lind many years ago perform in Iceland per chance and since then I’ve been fascinated with his music. I had the luck of also getting private lessons with him at the Icelandic University of the Arts and for that I am forever grateful, he has profoundly impacted my music creation and given me fuel and inspiration.
Nils Frahm – My Friend the Forest. I love listening to Nils Frahm piano works, ‘cause you can hear the pedals and the mechanical parts of the piano, and overall the tone of the piano is so quiet, almost like a whisper. When I was young I loved playing with the “practice pedal” (middle pedal of an upright piano) cause it put the felt down between the hammers and strings resulting in a soft, gentle sound that has always resonated more with me then anything else.
Max Richter – On the Nature of Daylight. I think Max Richter’s string works are so beautiful, I heard this song “On The Nature Of Daylight” when watching the movie “Arrival” and it just had such an impact on me. It’s a dream of mine to make an album with real strings but for this album I had to settle for using string VST Plugin.
Hauschka – Mount Hood. I heard “prepared piano” first when listening to Hauschka and was amazed at the possibilities this technique offered. Prepared piano, made widely popular by the composer John Cage, is a technique where you put things into the piano to get different textures out of it, in most cases it results in percussive sounds. This inspired a lot of the quirky or mechanical sounds of the album, for example there are ping pong balls bouncing off strings in “Human Geography” and in “The One-Eyed King” I used Horse Hair (from a violin bow) to play a piano string to get that buzzing sound.
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Mandy Love Theme (performed by Skúli Sverrisson). I went to Jóhann Jóhannsson Memorial Concert and Skúli Sverrisson, who has worked with him, performed this song that Jóhann Jóhannsson composed for the Movie “Mandy”. The depth of the effect this performance had on me was immense and served as a reminder for me of the impact that music can have on us.