KAIAR and Arrom take us through their collaborative LP, ‘Truce’

Sydney-based label Provenance has been forging its name as an exciting community of artists, and its latest release is another testament to that.

Out on the label tomorrow, February 14th, the label is set to release a collaborative LP from two of its artists, KAIAR and ARROM titled Truce. Falling on the experimental side of the spectrum within Australian music, but maintaining some semblance of pop with sparse, vocally-driven production reminiscent of FKA twigsTruce is a collaborative journey and a glimpse into the inner workings of both artists’ creativity.

Sometimes, collaborations don’t exactly come easy to some artists, and that fractured approach can sometimes be heard in the final result. On the other hand, when collaborators are truly working as one, the results can be simply stunning, and that’s what Truce is. Both artists expressed to their label how easy this project was to complete, with both KAIAR and ARROM using this process as a form of catharsis or therapy while working off each other.

To get to know a bit more about this very special record, KAIAR (Karla) and ARROM (Mel) have put together a track by track rundown of the songs on Truce. Take a read below, and stream the LP exclusively via Purple Sneakers right here:

DOUBT

K: To me doubt is a very catalytic feeling, the emotion before the action of change. That said I think this song really illustrates the more meditative and mournful face.  It was one of the first songs we worked on together, so being the album opener is really fitting. This one started out as a simple one- line melody that I sung one night after finishing a shift at work. I gradually built up the textures with the same simple melody, adding reverb to one, delay to another and and layered them over the top of each other. I added in a little distorted bell in that ticks like a clock, which I felt was sort of needed for pacing and grounding. 

M: As soon as I heard Karla’s melody I knew I wanted this song to be a non lyrical choral piece. I had this sort of magical underwater sea nymph choir image in my head actually. I wanted to augment it in a way that took these very human sounds of yearning and anticipation, and make them other worldly, which is why I lent so heavily on the auto tune and pitch shifter. The wonky clock tick thing was something we discussed removing pretty early into production which is funny because in the end it became my favourite element of the track, and inspired that blurry time-suck ending. I knew this would be our opener, even before the rest of the album was written. It just felt like the perfect retrospective beginning point to me.  

BREATHE

M: Breathe is one of those really fun songs that sort of just come to you in a spontaneous wave of feeling. Initially it all came together really fast for me. I smashed out the vocals and instrumentation over a night or two. I really loved the sentimentality of the song – it’s about the fragility of life, being with someone who doesn’t breathe steadily in their sleep and all the fear that fills you with. But sonically, it never felt finished to me. My music always has a lot of space in it, I love space in music, but much of the space in this track was just a sort of emptiness rather than an exhalation or the gap between a breath. My pacing with the track fizzled out and it sat gathering metaphorical digital dust for the next year – until one day it found itself with Karla. 

K: I love this song a lot. Mel and I function on a different sense of pacing, I can get really linear and stuck to the grid with my work so this album has opened me up to new approaches with my rhythm. I started adding the boomy drums intuitively and then the sticky high end ticks and delayed toms were added intuitively around the “booms”. I ended up extending the track by a few more minutes just with the groove because it wasn’t ready to end. I took  some of Mel’s vocal lines and bell melodies, variated them with delays, sidechain and distortion and popped them around the drums where it felt good. I also added some light fluffy verbs around Mel’s vocals to add another dimension.

M: I was so stoked when it came back to me! And more than that, some of Karla’s production inspired me to experiment with finalising the track with that sidechained vocal stab beat that enters at the breakdown. I would never have taken it there without Karla’s initial beatwork. It’s been really fun building off another person’s vibe like that. 

FALLEN OUT OF FAVOUR

K: The lyrics and melody came first with this one as well, it was written in the same week as Doubt. I was balancing too many life variables and  felt generally displaced and isolated. I recorded this one while sharing a wall with my housemate, so I was doing my best to be quiet. I kind of intended this to be structured as Verse Chorus Verse but once it was recorded I was like, this is what it was meant to be. I think the vocal take lent itself to the track that it has become. I’m a big believer in the original take, you can’t replicate the original emotion. My favourite parts about this track are actually Mel’s additions of purring drums and distorted bells, it extends the exact mood of this track perfectly. I think it’s actually been one of the best parts about working on this album was that Mel made me excited about my own songs with her additions.

M: Something Karla and I definitely have in common is that adoration for the rawness of an original or spontaneous take. Actually I think every song on this album was built around that. Like capturing and building on a feeling. This stem came to me really rough and raw, with a lot of background noise and I even think Karla was whispering parts of it. So rather than clean that up I just decided to keep pushing it through more tape machines and really sink into the grit of it all. I tied it together by using the wet send from my backing vocals and completely dialing out my dry line, so I’m only there as a reverb ghost. Karla slides around between her notes so I decided to copy that feeling in the bells, wobbling their pitch a little and blurring the line between each individual note, so the whole song had a wonky stretch to it.  

TRUCE

K: This one is a bit of a message to myself to let go of the past – which, as a Cancer is very hard for me haha. The lyrics were a simple poem I found on my icloud notes – I have often recontextualised verbatim thoughts into something more digestible. Production wise, I recorded the piano chords and added the lyrics immediately. After the initial idea was down I played a lot with reverb on the demo piano and vocals with one of my favorite reverb plugins Vahalla. There is this like quivery violin drone in there that is literally just a reversed piano. I chucked a really simple kick in there again for pacing. Before Mel came in to work on this, it was super linear with like an A-B-C structure, but Mel actually doubled the structure and I think the repetition really did it justice.

M: This is absolutely hands down the hardest track I’ve ever mixed and I am so grateful to it for that! Unlike the rest of the album, our vocals had to sit in perfect balance and unison for this song to really hit home with the sort of harmonies we wanted. Karla’s voice is really interesting to work with, it has a warmth and richness to it which really oozes out and fills up a mix. My voice is sort of the opposite I guess – It’s very resonant and sharp and cuts right through a mix. I wanted us to sound like one voice in this track so mixing us together was unlike anything I’ve ever done before, the balance had to be perfect, and it took me weeeeeeeeeks to find it. It’s quite ironic as I had to work so hard on this mix and one of the lyrics in the track is “you have to work to make it work”. So I guess it was fate.  

IDLE

M: The title of this track is a little word play. The song is about the idea that two people may not be best for each other. We make idols of our lovers, and yet when the balance is off, the relationship can become something without purpose or effect – to idle. But the track is a celebration of that realization, and of finding “someone better”. I really like to look at the end of affection in this way; we love, grow and improve. I’ve always adored a new adventure, a new friend, and finding the new in myself. I gave this track to Karla as an acapella ballad and she did the rest!

K: I’ll never forget this track as the one that I dragged Mel’s stems into my Ableton session at double time like a rookie! I had made this intense club beat around the acapella. I think because of its fast pacing within my session, I experimented with the effects and sounds around the vocals more than I usually would have because the moment passed fast enough for me to not overthink it. When I sent it back to Mel and we brought it back to the original tempo, it was actually perfect. I love that it has a dark electronic feeling to it, but now it’s relaxing to listen to as well.

STAR CROSSED

K: This song was written in an airbnb. I was surrounded by bushland and beach, but the vibe was ominous and eerie which really shows through in the overall feeling of the song.  I spent a day to myself in this tiny house, mostly being weirded out by this barbie doll hanging from the ceiling by a piece of string. I started off with a vocal synth and sidechained it, and built up more of my own stuttered sidechained vocals. I actually captured the vocals through my laptop mic out of convenience. The foundation of it was mostly done after about two hours.

M: There was already some subtle sidechain in Karla’s vocal takes here, which gave me the idea to just fully commit to slamming and sidechaining reverb on a feedback loop until I reached the ghost of the track, which I then droned out to take us to the close. I was also going for something dark and ominous although I didn’t know the tracks origin story at the time. My concept was seashells over your ears while you scream at the ocean which seems really fitting in hindsight. 

KNOW THE OCEAN

M: This track is actually one half of another song of mine called Fruit which Karla lent some production on for my last EP. Both songs are made up from disjointed vocal stems taken from a long narrative ballad-y song I wrote just for myself back in 2017. The original narrative was about sisterhood and solidarity within a society which struggles with an epidemic of violence and abuse against women. The lyrics in their full form were too directive to be something I shared with everyone, so in the end I just pulled bits and pieces out and made new songs from them. The fact that Karla brought Fruit to life with me told me that we needed to finish the thought together with Know the Ocean. 

K: When I listen to a track that I’m about to work on with Mel, there is always a few hours of contemplation and with this track that was especially true. I was really thinking about where the track was going and what it needed and because of that this was such a meditative track for me to work on. There was a part of Mel I wanted to take on the creative journey with me on this one so I started off with distorting the piano and vocal stems provided by Mel to create a larger atmosphere. I built a beat and added textures around the atmosphere and let it write itself. 

YOU REMAIN

M: This is by far one of the most personal and painful tracks I’ve ever written, so I wanted it to be beautiful – I know that might sound strange. I won’t go into all of the details but in its essence this song is about a system which doesn’t protect children. There’s a lot of pain in this track for me, but that pain also paved much of my identity and the values I hold now as an adult, which is the beauty. I wanted to juxtapose this catharsis with the lyrical notion that there are people out there who can affect you and your path forever but remain unchanged and unscathed themself. Time can distort memories but it can also make them echo, which is another aspect I wanted to explore with my production in this track. Conceptually it felt like it needed to be the closing track for me so I was very happy that it also felt like a closing track in terms of its musicality.    

K: The sentiment of this track resonates so much with me, as Mel and I come from similar backgrounds. It felt really right to close the album on this track for that reason. My first thought was to add like a subby bass that had a bit of thump and sidechain for movement rather than an obvious beat, because the vocals stand so strong on their own.

____

Closing comment from K: I love that these songs have found a home together. I feel like each song is two people coming together the way Mel and I do in our friendship – we compliment each other and we also make each other better.

Closing Comment from M: Yeah I definitely second what Karla said there. There’s a lot of love and friendship in this album which has been very liberating. Being a creator can be lonely and challenging in really odd and narcissistic ways, so to have found such an effortless bond has been really grounding. Making this album just felt so right and pure for both of us and we’re pretty keen to keep that feeling alive and make more music together again in the future.

Truce is out February 14th via Provenance.

Image: Supplied

Introduction by Emma Jones

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Just a Robyn stan who loves going to the club.