Melbourne-Copenhagen duo True Strength premiere their extraordinary self-titled debut album today on WildnFree. Singing across Danish and English while blending together multiple musical disciplines, enjoy this meditative blend of revivalist folk, early baroque and renaissance, electroacoustic and free improvisation. Released by Northcote’s own Eastmint Records, True Strength offer a gentle, mesmerising experience across twelve blissfully magical tracks. The duo have worked with acts such as Grand Salvo, Sophia Brous, Oren Ambarchi, Pikelet, Francis Plagne, Chamber Made Opera, Inland, Rawcus and James Rushford, and now have their own January launch tour performances coming up. Catch this beautiful duo live at MONA FOMA, Sydney’s NOWnow Festival and Melbourne’s Liquid Architecture and Eastmint Studios.
True Strength’s Ida Dueland-Hansen and Alexander Garsden share a little more about themselves, their unique style and their upcoming launch tour for your information and pleasure:
WF: You write and perform in a uniquely focussed, intimate and virtuosic style, how do you go about this?
I: I think virtuosity is something that you rarely find incorporated into songwriting. Because the music is difficult, and because both instruments are so exposed, we have to approach performing in a way that’s more like chamber musicians – we spend a lot of time doing things like fine-tuning phrasing or other details, and building up a strong dialogue that means you can know and trust exactly where the other person will be.
WF: Tell me a bit about the journey of this album, when did you start? Where were the songs written and recorded?
A: Almost all the songs were written in 2012 when Ida was still living in Australia. At the end of that year we went out to country Victoria and recorded a handful of them, but before we’d finished mixing Ida had to return to Copenhagen. Suddenly it felt as though the few songs we’d put down were an insufficient way of remembering this thing that was, so we decided to delay doing anything with the recordings until we’d had the chance record the rest of what we’d written. We kept two songs from that first session, and everything else was done in 2014 in a country house in rural Denmark where the two of us holed up for a week – mattresses over the windows and all that – until we felt we’d got it right. It took another year and a half of emailing the sessions back and forth until it was done.
WF: How did the two of you begin creating music together?
A: In 2011 I saw Ida perform Schubert’s song cycle Die Winterreise which she had arranged for double bass and voice, and I guess that was the seed of this band.
I: Alex gave me a bunch of his songs in early 2012, and we played a few DIY shows around Melbourne trying out different constellations – at first five-piece, later seven-piece – before we settled on just performing as a duo, which allowed for more focus and intimacy.
A: That really changed the music we’d write together – once we incorporated the double bass it quickly transformed the project into something more collaborative and integrated.
WF: Tell me a bit about your unique backgrounds.
I: They are both very eclectic, and neither of us does anything else that’s much like this. At the moment I play in different bands, mainly SILVESTER, but when I lived in Melbourne I used to do other work in sound design and theatre, or session work in jazz bands.
A: I run a series of experimental music concerts, and write for different ensembles in the contemporary classical world – I just finished a large work with Sydney Symphony – but also spend a lot of time playing a kind of supporting role in different pop bands… Ned Collette, Francis Plagne, Brous, and a few others…
WF: What’s the most important thing you’re trying to achieve with your music?
A: I don’t think we really know. For me, it started as a way of replicating something of the British folk revival without playing covers – or of extracting from it that same kind of utopian veneration of a musical heritage, while relying on something more than lyrical references to woodland critters to get you over the line. It’s music that is detailed and intelligent, and I think we’re both the kind of people that enjoy the labour of getting it to the point where it’s expressive… more so when, at the end of the day, you can take what’s essentially early baroque music into somewhere like a bar and play it.
WF. How are you feeling about your January tour?!
I: We’re both really looking forward to playing again. Our opportunities to play together are so infrequent, but on the other hand I think there’s something to be said for the focus we have when we finally get together and work. Because time is limited, we work full time and it’s always very focussed.
A: I think each of the concerts we’re doing is going to contextualise our music very differently. The Mona FOMA lineup is nuts, and for the other shows we’ve worked with NOWnow up in Sydney, and both Liquid Architecture and Eastmint here in Melbourne to find ways to approach what we do from different angles. The people we’re playing alongside are all musicians we have a huge amount of respect for, so each of the concerts should be very special and bizarre.
Now grab a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy something special and different and sublime: