By Prachi Kamble
VANCOUVER – As a teenager growing up in Gothenburg, Sweden, Carl Garsbo remembers feeling disconnected from the music scene around him, and looking to the Internet and America for inspiration. Fast forward a few years and he has now become the inspiration for hundreds of thousands of electronic music fans all around the world, and forced to reckon with the double-edged sword of fame. On his debut full-length album under the name of Kasbo, Places We Don’t Know, Garsbo is processing the blur of the last few years that culminated into this meteoric rise. When you hit this sort of high at the age of 21, you must wonder where you go from here.
Fittingly, Places We Don’t Know is an introspective snapshot of the tectonic shift caused by Garsbo’s recent success. From putting out much loved remixes of Jai Wolf, Fetty Wap, Vance Joy, and Big Gigantic tracks, to opening for Odesza on their Moment Apart Tour, and eventually signing to Ninja Tune sub-label Counter Records, the young producer’s life is practically a fairy tale crossed with your best dream. Through it all, Garsbo has managed to keep his cool through it all.
“The album is reflective of the realizations I was having then,” Garsbo reflects. “I was experiencing the world by myself for the first time. I was travelling alone, meeting people from all over the world, falling in love. I was experiencing a lot, both good and bad.”
The tracks on Places We Don’t Know are far from the usual rainbow-inducing, fist-pumping, EDM fare. Garsbo crafts softer, more ethereal soundscapes, with lyrics as poignant and delicate as porcelain. This is dance music you can sway to at sunsets.
“My self-reflection sparked a romanticization of a time of naïveté,” Garsbo muses. “It really hit me that the world is sometimes so much more beautiful when you haven’t seen what it’s actually like.”
The album operates on this very idyllic frequency of ignorance being bliss. For example, the single “Snow in Gothenburg” embodies this yearning for simpler times within a feathery, light song framework.
“I made [‘Snow in Gothenburg’] when the first snow fell in November 2016,” remembers Garsbo. “I was going through some tough times. I had experienced isolation and loneliness for so long that I finally stopped fighting them, and realised it might just be better to surrender and come terms with those feelings… Maybe this is what life is, and that’s ok. Realising that was a huge relief.”
Garsbo’s vulnerability is arresting. He was keen on preserving the innocence of youth in the lyrics of Places We Don’t Know, along with all the feelings that come with it: love, sadness, and anxiety. They are all evident in “Found You,” which has been gaining traction in the mainstream. Garsbo always knew that a more relaxed tempo would emphasise these sentiments more faithfully.
“A big goal on the album was to have garage-ish inspired drum beats, but to slow them down to enhance their swing, and to leave more room for melodic elements,” Garsbo explains. “I hadn’t heard garage done at 90-100bpm before, so it was really fun.”
For “Snow in Gothenburg” and “Aldrig Mer,” Garsbo teamed up with music video director Tak Kamihagi to produce bright, vintage, visuals bathed in prismatic light that complement the Kasbo sound.
“Tak and I aren’t concerned with specifics,” claims Garsbo. “I love art that doesn’t get caught up in them. I try to create a very distinct feeling or place with my music and I feel Tak doesn’t tell stories with his videos either, he prefers to conjure up feelings.”
Carl Garsbo handled his growth and success with acute self-awareness, and then converted those qualities into art that immortalises the experiences for others to relate to. This allows him to create an authentic bond with his audiences. His ability to know who he is, how he feels, and staying true to himself are what set him apart in a dance music scene that is saturated with formulaic music lacking a higher purpose. As the world increasingly sees young people rise up across the world and challenge antiquated systems, it is becoming more and more apparent that youth is not frivolous, but it’s full of energy, courage, passion, nobility, vulnerability, and industriousness. This is what Garsbo captures in his work and lives out in his story.
Kasbo plays at Celebrities on April 27th.CLUB, Counter Records, Downtempo, EDM, electro-pop, Kasbo, synth-pop