With their second album almost complete, iDJ meets Austria's kings of tropical house
Life has been a blur for Austrian duo Klangkarussell since 2013 when they were catapulted from Soundcloud obscurity and into national Top 10s across Europe with their breakthrough hit Sonnentanz, backed by a full live band and followed almost immediately by their debut album Netzwerk in 2014. Their feet barely touched the floor during the years that followed.
Finally able to take a break from the road last year the duo, comprising physics lover Adrian Held and keen fisherman Tobias Rieser, had time to do what brought them together in the first place: knuckle down in the studio and just write music. Momentarily away from the headline hurly-burly, for the first time since they became household names in house music they've been able to really think about a crafted and consistent body of work. A body of work that's been slowly revealing since the summer.
In June they broke nearly a year of release silence with the slow-drip drama of Time. Its sweeping chords felt fittingly stately, like a big zoom-out in a movie to reveal the wider picture. That picture now includes three more singles, all delivered with their consistent signature theme of soft-focus techno textures and hazy emotion. In August we were treated to both Circuits and Good To Go, and they've recently signed out of 2017 with Jericho, a track that features the vocals of cult Swedish alt-rock band Mando Diao and comes complete with a politically-edged video.
As 2018 looms they seem to be revealing more and more new material. We called them up to see what's in store…
It feels like you're building up to something...
Tobias: "We're putting the finishing touches on our album. It's nearly done and we're super happy with it. There's no release date set but we're looking at early next year. Spring, hopefully."
Did it live up the classic ‘difficult second album' cliches?
Adrian: "It's a very different record. The last one doesn't feel so much like a record because it was done over a long period of time. We tried to connect the newer music we were doing with the older music we'd done like Sonnentanz, and that was quite a challenge: it felt more like a collection of what we'd done rather than an album. But with this one we sat down and simply wrote music until we were happy."
Is it more creatively fulfilling, when you're creating a whole body of work?
Tobias: "Yes, so there's a feel to it. This isn't to say that Netzwerk didn't. But this has been much more of a pleasure and yes, creatively fulfilling."
There's a theme and consistency to the singles so far. What's would you say has had the biggest influence on that theme?
Tobias: "The last four years endless touring has influenced everything. It's been our lives."
Adrian: "Seeing lots of places and people and connecting with artists and dancefloors all around the world has obviously been incredible, and there are many things that inspire you along the way. But it can also be very demanding."
It's about maintaining that balance of the studio and the road…
Tobias: "The balance is so important. It's easier now but it was very hard to say no when we started, because we wanted to do everything and took on as many opportunities as we could. But the older you get, the better you find the balance and have experience of knowing what to take on or not."
I'm guessing you say 'yes' to everything at the beginning?
Tobias: "Yeah, because we didn't even have a moment to promote ourselves, then someone comes along and offers to promote us and shout about us to the world. We couldn't refuse! It lead to a very, very quick learning curve and also a lot of excitement. We didn't expect success from our music, we did it for fun! So the whole beginning was special."
Back to the future. Tell us about the Jericho video…
Adrian: "We wanted to translate our music into a sign language of moving pictures. Connectable and in-between different songs, with a message that's stronger than our lyrics. The director, Jörg Kundinger, took our idea and developed it so well."
Tell us about Mando Diao, who a lot of UK readers might not be aware of...
Adrian: "They've been huge over here since around 2004 and had some very big hits. They're Swedish and very popular in the German and Austrian market."
I read that they were childhood heroes. Did you ever see them live as kids?
Tobias: "I never went live concerts really before our career took off. I think Adrian had a lot more experience of that than me."
Adrian: "Not really! I grew up with very traditional Austrian music. Marching bands and all that crap."
I can't help but think about The Sound Of Music right now, sorry!
Tobias: "Well, we pretty much grew up in the border of The Alps so you're not far off!"
So when did house and techno come into your lives?
Tobias: "I started with hip-hop stuff and got more into drum & bass which is huge in Austria. I moved to Vienna but as time went by the more I slowed down the tempo and dug techno a lot more."
Now you seem to be digging songwriting, too. Do you consider yourselves songwriters?
Adrian: "We're always learning. Every song is different compared to who we write with. Everyone brings something different to the creative experience. We love to challenge ourselves and see how we can experiment with arrangement and structure and lyrics. It's also a mood thing, and what we want to make. We love the underground sound as much as we love the more song-based structures. It's another thing to balance."
So how about a name for the new album?
Adrian: "I think it's a little bit too soon to confirm but watch this space!"
Anything else we should watch the space for?
Adrian: "Yes, we'll be doing a brand live show."
You had a substantial live band before, will it be similar?
Adrian: "We're still working it out. We're not sure if we'll do a band or create a new electronic set-up and re-arrange stuff for live performances."
Tobias: "There aren't so many elements from other musicians in the new music. Not so many guitars or organic elements as we've had before."
Hold on... you're planning a new live set-up and writing an album at the same time?
Adrian: "No, no, the album is almost done. Now we're out of that creative state we can really focus on the live show. There's a lot of cool things happening in 2018, we're just bringing it all together."
Words: Dave Jenkins
Jericho is out now - buy or stream it here