ATTLAS – Carry It With You – Track by Track
Toronto’s ATTLAS unveils the track by track for his stunning 3rd album, Carry It with You.
If you’re looking for a body of work that dives into every inch of emotion—from the bad, to the confusing, to the angry, and, of course, to the joy—let ATTLAS be the soundtrack that fills your desire. Known for crafting dance music that is equal parts euphoric and introspective, it’s clear his music is resonating with audiences; his debut LP Lavender God was nominated for Electronic Album of the Year at the 2021 JUNO Awards and, if that wasn’t a sign of his talent, his second record Out Here With You is up for the exact same award.
ATTLAS holds nothing back in his latest release, Carry It with You. Charting a period of time for the artist that he describes as an album of his toughest thoughts about himself, Carry It with You is an album that bridges together his mistakes and fears with the powerful realization that everything that makes you who you are—the flaws, the ambitions, the difficult moments—are all things that you carry with you.
ATTLAS pens an exclusive track by track for each track on Carry It with You, check out his thoughts & musings now.
How to begin an album? Almost an overture of sorts, wherein I lay out thematically and sonically what this project will be. Rubato piano leads into swells of atmosphere as we dip our toes into ‘Carry It With You’ before the stacatto patterns plunge us right into the water. It’s technical but accessible, sentimental but not lacking in forward moving energy.
I had originally written this one a couple of years ago in a much different version. As the pandemic progressed and my mental health worsened, I missed more and more what music felt like live. I hadn’t written a straightforward, high-energy, ‘play out-able’ record in ages and ended up writing a whole EP of them that I intended on releasing last summer/autumn. Ultimately, my confidence in my work cratered and I scrapped the project. It took a kind friend reminding me of this track to get me listening to it with a fresher perspective, and it brought me back to the first time I had played it out live and what it meant to me. Last Walk – very rarely in life will you know when something, or someone, happens for the last time. Then you miss it.
You’re Gonna Miss It All
Personally, this is the track that the album is based around. Emotionally, the title comes initially from an album by the band Modern Baseball, but more honestly it’s a self-examination. I was/am going through a period of extreme change in my family life, my living situation, my relationships, just about everything. I retreated inside of myself and was so terrified of dealing with reality I was hanging on by a thread most days. I spoke to myself, ‘Jeff, you’re gonna miss it all and it’s all going to be your fault’. That was the soul of the track, and it became very difficult to finish it because every note reminded me of the things I hate about myself. On the more technical side of the music, for years I have been trying to write a high-tempo kick pattern into a track, inspired most obviously by Djrum (whose work I have the opposite emotional connection with compared to my own). The result is a track where I stepped up to the plate and tried something I haven’t tried before, despite being afraid to release it.
To Catch A Glimpse
I’ve had this track in my back pocket for years. It’s so versatile, can be edited and thrown around and mashed up or played out as is. It’s my ‘smallest’ track, the thing is 4 channels of audio and it comes at you like heavy hoofbeats through thick fog. That’s the idea, the ever-pulsing ‘tell-tale heart’ through gauze. I went weeks last winter listening to “prince of Denmark” records on loop and this is such an obvious reminder of trying to learn from the greats while inevitably becoming your person through the effort.
One technique I’ve used a lot more in my creative process since the EP ‘Charcoal Halo’ and featuring much more prominently in the ‘Lavender God’ album is reworking my demos and concepts through detailed re-sampling. When I began producing, so many loops or pads or concepts were built from extracting and stretching or inverting or playing around with audio from other artists, and I love the possibilities that re-contextualizing gave to not just the ideas themselves, but the sonic quality of layer upon layer. Its a fuzzy and gauzy and a result of stacks and stacks of projects that are resampled in what I like to think of as sonic collages. Newspaper on top of photograph with glue and paint wrapped around it.
Reminiscences of Youth
The title of this track comes from the painting of the same name by William Kurelek. The painting is one of the reasons why the AGO in Toronto became a gallery I was at many times per week for years. I tried to organize the track spatially similar to the painting – a man taking a rest with a record in on one corner of the room, calm voices from his childhood in another corner, all tied together by the wistful and nostalgic loops of thought and emotion that we can all get trapped in.
Followed Me Home
The concept of this track goes back to my first-year writing as ATTLAS. I had made a track based on resampling cuts of ambient records, house records, with a few of my piano lines layered in. It was always a track/edit I was fond of, but of course, couldn’t use it as an ATTLAS track. What I ended up doing was composing and producing my tracks inspired by the textures and moods suggested in the original samples, then pitching them down to the appropriate keys and sampling them in the same session as I did the original edit. The result is a warm, thick, comfortable idea that’s surprisingly simple in execution, especially related to the fact that I produced three full records just to sample a few seconds from each.
Carry It With You
Carry It With You began as an ambient piece that was a one-take performance/composition just letting things flow through me. The changes in my own life independent of the pandemic, the changes in the planet, my collapsing sense of myself. I couldn’t take two steps without my thoughts reminding me of everything. The version we hear on the album is another collage-based piece of many tracks I wrote rapidly in a short period. They could have been an EP of more meditative and longer pieces, but the version we have here ebbs and flows in and out of clarity, concept, energy, while at the same time occupying one geography. Like watching seasons change rapidly from one vantage point, there’s a steady rock at the heart of this piece while the weather swirls and surrounds via time’s inevitable march away from the familiar.
Sonically, heavily inspired by the work the band Vessels does – lilting kicks, developing strong patterns that build and explode bar by bar, warm and textured synths, and a breakdown that gives just enough of a ‘catch your breath’ moment before we lean back into the motion and movement. As far as the concept and title, I moved to a new place last year and felt lost, isolated, confused, non-human at times. A lot of walks, books, and far too much time alone in my head. I would spend time under the bridge near the railyards watching the tracks that could take me anywhere if I had the guts to jump in the back of a rail car. I made sure not to step on the needles near the overflowing ‘safe deposit’ containers. The massive machines that move so much around.
If anything, this track is a distillation of biking through the forests that saved my mind and soul last year. Musically, it’s Boards of Canada and O’Flynn but mostly just me paying respects to the sun that comes through the leaves golden and warm and in pillars. The sun whose presence gives me the plants I love, that melts the ice, that freckles my favourite person. Persistent but it takes enough of a breakthrough the winter that you remember your old friend every spring. Our light was never from screens and bulbs, it was from the fires we make and the fires in the sky.
Does your soul afford you peace when you need it? After a long winter, after a hard cry, a brutal loss, a devastating illness, a lost fight? The soul takes a break and gives you a moment. It can be over a mug of tea, a rare sleep-in, a power outage that makes you sad when the internet comes back on, or a learned lesson. Afterglow means something to me but there’s a universality in hearing the birds chirp after the storm or a friend smile again after a loss of a parent. The story might not ever be as good as it was, but that doesn’t mean the story has run out of goodness. This piece was part of a complete ambient album I wrote in between Lavender God and Out Here With You, another project of mine that was as much a useful creative undertaking can be that doesn’t get released. It’s a denouement, but a sunrise version, not a sunset version.
Carry It with You, the album
This is a difficult album to write about. It took me a lot longer to finish than I anticipated, and I had written another two albums and mastered another EP in the time that I came to complete Carry It With You, but the person who finished it was not the person that started it. I almost lost myself completely as so much in my life shifted and evaporated and left and changed. But I was still here. The good, the bad, the confusing, the angry – I had to carry it with me. Everywhere I went, I was there, my mind was there, my heart was there, my soul was there. It’s an album of my toughest thoughts about myself that I was forced to address. My past and my failures and my mistakes I could no longer bury or run from or hide. They were all that was around me.
My isolation mentally and emotionally became extreme to the point of damaging, but I found peace in what I thought was a collapse. It afforded me new thoughts and emotions that, before I go, I should try to write down and share. I tried to write selfishly, which is to say maybe honestly. And the result of that honesty is flawed, ambitious, personal, and hard to explain. I miss a lot of the old me, but since I couldn’t find the words to explain it I had to find the notes and the sounds to explain it, and that’s what this album is. Be grand, be a disaster, do good, or apologize – you have to carry it with you.
Carry It With You is out now. Follow ATTLAS at @attlasmusic.
Photography by Christina Boemio