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Meet Salamanda: the multitudes of ambient

Exploring the throbbing world of slower BPMs

As the current electronic music scene is departing from the classic four-to-the-floor rhythms into more adventurous and disruptive soundscapes, and as life gets more and more hectic by day, high-tempo hyper-pop-influenced beats are having their moment. However, the explosion of creativity happening on the other side of the BPM spectrum is not to be overlooked, and Salamanda is a name you should get familiar with. The Seoul-based duo’s take on ambient and downtempo is filled with fantasy and fluidity, as they tiptoe the lines between daydreams, reality and absurdity. From playful rhythms and faintly psychedelic vocals to sturdier percussions, their musical range is perfect for both the comfort of your bedroom as well as sweaty dancefloors. One thing remains throughout – Salamanda’s sound is guaranteed to send your imagination adrift as you bathe in the warmth and intricacies of their nimble productions. We caught up with the duo in light of their recent release for To Illustrate – a collaborative album from Wisdom Teeth family that dives deep into the fizzing genre-defying talent orbiting around a 100 BPM mark.

How would describe your sound in one sentence?

We want to make sounds that can be seen and felt.

How did your duo come together?

We first met each other through a mutual friend in 2018 when we both were still getting used to DJing and producing electronic music. We discovered that we share similar music tastes and viewpoints in general, so we decided to make music together for fun.

What do you want the listener to feel like when they hear your music?

We just want them to have fun, really. You know those moments when you’re on a bus, the sun is shining over your head, and all you need is some good tunes to travel with? We want our music to be a good travel buddy.

What are some of your biggest inspirations?

Inspirations are everywhere. From light reflections from the sea, forest landscape with deers walking around, scenes from good films and music videos, to happy memories or even sounds that we accidentally made with a recently-bought instrument.

There is so much breadth in your tracks, yet there is an air of playfulness that runs throughout. Would you say it’s a conscious choice?

Some of our tracks have lighter feels while some others are rather serene and spiritual. As for the former, we sometimes like to add playful elements and create sounds that feel witty and charming. It’s nice to see people digging those sounds and having a good time with our music especially during the last couple of years.

Could you tell us a bit more about your collaboration with Wisdom Teeth? A favourite moment from it?

Wisdom Teeth has always been one of our favourite labels, so we were really excited when they first reached out to us. Because we’re both huge fans of K-LONE and Facta, every communication with them felt (and still feels) like a fan-artist moment. Being on their recent compilation “To Illustrate” alongside so many great artists would be our favourite moment with them so far, but who knows… There’s more to come!

If you could change anything in the music industry, what would it be?

One thing would be to shatter the music industry’s obsession with charts that define and label one’s artwork with numbers. Another thing would be to be more active in fighting for performers’ rights during the pandemic, national mournings or any equivalent event.

How would you describe Seoul’s current underground music scene?

Music-wise, it’s a growing scene that is getting more diverse with a wider spectrum of music ranging from classic dancefloor tunes to gabber, noise and even hardcore edits of K-Pop. As part of the community, the scene actively engages in various campaigns and movements to help build the local community strong and healthy. Being with the bravest and most supportive friends and venues, we feel proud to be part of this scene.

As you DJ as well as produce, do you have a favourite set/club night you’ve ever played?

The most memorable DJ set we had this year would be the one that we did at Festival de FRUE, Japan this November. After performing live on the night of the day before, we did a two-hour ambient, downtempo DJ set the next morning. The set felt very special for us in that it was our first performance in nature, in the morning, under the bright blue sky and we could watch people waking up to our set and coming out from their tents. It was such a dreamy and surreal experience.

What’s something you’re most proud of? In music or generally.

My eyes, that somehow remain healthy despite excessive screen time and an unhealthy lifestyle. Also: my two cats, especially my baby Ringo. She is really good at singing. As you may already know, the singer who was featured on our track “Mad Cat Party” was her. How proud am I? They are really good friends of mine. Thank you gals.

Images courtesy of Salamanda

Words by Evita Shrestha