Sabiwa's music is clear proof opposites do indeed attract: it's delicate yet harsh, primal yet modern, fragile yet hefty. Hailing from Taiwan, Sabiwa's first contact with music was as a tween, when she became a cellist. Since then, however, she's traded the sheet music for the synthesisers – but the best of both worlds still remains in her sound.
Often dubbed experimental, Sabiwa dances between the line of electronica and ritualism. Her oeuvre is abstraction made sound; a creative amalgamation that weaves together elements from natural and synthetic sources, with her voice as the main, if somehow subdued, conductor. She produces and performs the entirety of her repertoire, often accompanying the sound with visual art for her live appearances. Her sophomore mixtape, 輪迴, released this past November through London-based record label Chinabot is the perfect rite of passage, musical and spiritually, for the Taiwanese performer. Over twelve tracks, she narrates a funeral ceremony and thus, what reincarnation means to her.
You credit a visit to an aquarium as your personal epiphany telling you that you should pursue music. Can you tell us a bit more about that experience?
It was dark, and different creatures of different colours were floating and shining all around. I can’t say if they were actually producing a sound or if only I could hear it, but it felt as if those images were the natural representation of music. I could see it moving in the space and becoming concrete around me. This changed a lot my perspective about sound and visuals. It's like that, one cannot exist without the other.
You started out playing the cello at twelve. How did you transition to electronic music and self-production?
When I first came to Europe, I got more in touch with audiovisuals and performance. I started doing visuals for some friends and, through these collaborations, I got more into the audio recording and processing. I got a tremendous amount of musical input from them. They guided and supported me to follow and develop my own musical path by giving me suggestions, softwares and devices until I would just translate the sound from the images I produced. To be honest, I don't know if I would've ever produced my records if it weren't for my best friends. Actually, they are part of my own world, and they interact a lot with my creative process – contributing to making it real.
輪迴, which means ‘reincarnation,' is your second project and you released it through Chinabot. Why did you choose to work with this label?
Chinabot contacted me and proposed to publish a tape with them. I thought that would be cool, and I accepted. I love the project. I love their vision about music.
What would you say are the main differences between Sabiwa, your first EP, and 輪迴, both sonically and thematically?
In some aspects, you could say they are connected: the beginning of Sabiwa is a sort of genesis — everything starts from water drops to evolve in organic texture. 輪迴 is the passage to the next body, and also, it recalls to water and primordial elements in different parts.
Sonically, I can say they represent my personal ‘music’ evolution. My first EP was released so naturally – just editing some recordings, trying to express my approach to the sound. 輪迴 represents something more complex and mature. I let myself be totally free about composition, form and process. I developed the techniques I used for the first one introducing a lot of granular syntheses, which allowed me to give that kind of fragmentation soul to the tracks.
How would you say your sound has evolved or changed from the first project?
I think sound evolves as a result of practice; I would say I mostly changed the structural thinking of my compositional process. 輪迴 is more abstract, and I let myself go more into experimenting. In Sabiwa, you can recognize a more distinct ‘song’ form, and also the sonority is less dark generally.
The title itself is a dead giveaway but what are the main inspirations behind 輪迴, musical or otherwise?
The main inspiration is always the concept of identity, in different ways and forms. What can be described as an identity? That's what particularly fascinates me.
What other themes would you like to explore in the future?
Next, I am gonna explore colours and constellations.
"I don’t think music can be described by words at all. That’s the best thing about it.”
Your music is quite complex, though it certainly falls into the electronic umbrella. How would you personally describe your sound?
I don’t think music can be described by words at all. That’s the best thing about it.
You sample your sounds from natural and synthetic sources, as well as your own voice. Can you run us through your creative process when composing and collecting your samples?
To collect the material I used in the production of 輪迴, I was with two friends on a lake around Berlin and recorded space and mud. Then, I basically started editing the audio materials, processing them, and combining it with other recordings. I played with the sounds for around one week and I produced a lot of samples. After that, I started to work on composition and structure.
Apart from the whole composition, you also do a fair share of live performances with mesmerizing visuals, seemingly fusing music and visual arts. When and why did you decide to explore this intersection? And what comes first?
I started as a visual artist – I do paintings and videos. I just feel it’s natural to somehow extract the sound from the images.
In 輪迴, almost every single track flows together, to the point where it’s difficult to determine where one ends and the other starts. Did you envision for the songs to interact with each other? Why?
It represents the trip; landscapes are gradually melting, fading in each other. I can't explain why but I feel this form particularly adapts to express my music.
Do you follow a set hierarchy when creating a mixtape order or does it come naturally?
I would say it comes quite naturally. It also involves part of improvisation and indeterminacy.
You said the whole album is, in essence, a funeral ceremony. What are you mourning?
I use recordings from my grandfather funeral ceremony in the album. I think of it as a time to think deeply about myself, my existence and transformation. I've always been interested in how we can consider and afford this passage.
How do you set out to develop new perspectives when creating your music?
I start from a complete audio-visual concept. Shape, colours and sounds bound together in a thin ice structural framework.
Do you have plans to release more music this year? What can you tease about your next project?
Yes. Right now, I am working on a short movie and a new release.
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