SCIOLENT: Powerful Art

Sciolent Photo 2

German one-man art rock band Sciolent has launched a new album back in December. Entitled “Chiaroscuro,” it brings 11 songs of masterfully crafted combination of alternative and progressive rock. Sciolent answered our questionnaire about the work on the album.

Define the mission of Sciolent.

If I said I had a clear mission in mind with this project, I’d probably be lying. It started out as me figuring out how to make my own music as a teenager because I somehow felt the need to express myself that way, and in a sense it still mostly exists for it’s own sake. But as I’m starting to reach more people now I’d love to be able to move others with my music, maybe even let them find some comfort in it. Art in general can be so powerful, especially when it connects people, and that might perhaps become my mission, to put it broadly.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Chiaroscuro” and themes it explores.

I started working on the album more than three years ago. The music I had made before was often done in fragments and the writing and recording phases were very intertwined which had its advantages, but could also be frustrating and sometimes it didn’t feel like a complete process. For “Chiaroscuro”, I pledged myself to follow a much more linear process – writing the songs first, then refining and after that finally recording them. I think it worked quite well.

Stylistically it took a while and some turns until I arrived at a clear vision of what the album should sound like. It ended up as a vibrant mixture that ties together neo-classically oriented piano themes, alternative rock riffs and some shoegaze and post-rock atmospherics here and there. I don’t see myself as a great innovator, but I do think that this stylistic niche is one that hasn’t been explored too much before and I like that aspect of novelty.

Regarding the lyrics, there are some recurring themes on the record: Sleep and dreaming, exchanging comfort during difficult times, being in love and thoughts about death. These were just things that moved me in one way or another over the past three years. I felt that “Chiaroscuro” would be a fitting title since it stands for a painting technique that contrasts very bright spots in a painting with dark surrounding, something that I saw as a beautiful metaphor for us finding the things that give us light in life and putting them in the center of the darker aspects we have to deal with.


How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

That very much depends on the idea I’m trying to capture. If it’s a simple vocal melody or riff, I’ll usually just hum it into my phone and record it properly later. If it’s a more complex idea, for example a polyphonic piano theme, I’ll write it down in a score. And for chord progressions I mostly write down the chord names on little sticky notes that clutter up my desk until the song or album is finished – a tiny bit of organized chaos, you know.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, that was one of my main aims with this album. I wanted it to be a connected body of work rather than just a compilation of unrelated songs. It’s not a concept album, but I still wanted it to feel like a journey, and to convey that you need some sort of flow. So I thought about the track order and the pacing a lot, and I also recorded some interludes and sound snippets towards the very end of the process that are meant to act like little bridges or trails between the pieces – you can hear them at the end of Balliamo Sott’Acqua, Empty Rooms or the title track Chiaroscuro for example. I think they add something to the album and often it’s these little details that make me love records I like even more.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

I recorded the parts over a period of about two and a half years by playing all parts myself and multitracking them. All of that happened in my flat except for a couple of vocal takes that I did in a rehearsal space nearby to get better acoustics. Recording took a lot of time overall because I was always trying to get the perfect take which meant that for some vocals or guitar parts there were over 100 takes in the end!

And then of course there are also two contributions by my dear and talented friends Ruben (who plays bassoon on Balliamo Sott’Acqua) and Maya (who wrote and sang the vocals for Seen None Of It Before). Maya recorded several versions of her vocals on her own and sent them to me, whereas Ruben and I recorded his part together in his flat. It’s always lovely creating something together, especially when you’re friends, and I’m very thankful for both of their contributions.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on “Chiaroscuro”?

Some of my longstanding influences include bands like Muse, Radiohead, Oceansize or Porcupine Tree. I love how they all find that sweet spot between artistic exploration and somewhat unorthodox ideas on one hand and still a good portion of agreeableness and emotional depth and appeal on the other. I think especially Oceansize were a big influence for this album – when I discovered them three years ago, I couldn’t stop listening to them for months. Effloresce and Frames are two of my favourite albums of all time, they just click with me on so many levels and some passages on “Chiaroscuro” are referencing them a little bit.

As of lately, I’ve also been listening to a lot of shoegaze which found its way into “Chiaroscuro” in terms of sound design and dream-like atmosphere. My favourites in that genre are Slowdive and Curve, but there has been and still is loads of talent across so many bands and artists.

Sciolent Photo 1

What is your view on technology in music?

It’s an ambivalent one, I guess. For me, it’s been very helpful – without the opportunity to simply record your music at home on your laptop I probably would have never started with this. All the software that’s out there, the digital audio workstations and plugins, the internet tutorials, it enables so many people to explore their talents in a way that wasn’t possible 30 years ago and that’s a great achievement in my eyes.

On the other hand, there’s always the danger of dehumanization now, if we’re being a bit dramatic. I’m not one to call some slight pitch correction or quantization the devil’s work; if it’s done tastefully it can give a “flawed” but emotionally intense performance the right punch that makes it stand out more. However, if we end up removing all imperfections from the music altogether and make it sound cold and flat I don’t know where the charm is in there anymore. With music being produced by artificial intelligence appearing on the horizon, I do hope that we don’t lose touch with the beauty of humans just being humans.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

As stated above, I’d love to see it reach people on an emotional level – providing comfort, sharing new perspectives, making you feel less alone with what you’re feeling. If just one person is having a good time listening to it, then I think it’s done something valuable.
Of course music can also be a powerful tool to transport messages in a more societal or political fashion, but I’ve done that only sporadically so far and I’ll admit that I’m not sure yet how to do it convincingly on a bigger scale. Maybe I’ll get around to that someday, but it has to come authentically.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to play my songs live, so preparing that might start soon. Either I’ll make it a solo show somehow or I’ll form a little band with some friends I’ve been jamming with for a while now, we’ll have to see.

And if there’s new music that wants to be written, I’m always here for it! I don’t think there will be another full album this year, but an EP or some singles are possible. Stay tuned!

Chiaroscuro is out now and is available on Bandcamp

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