Dan Michaelson's new solo album First Light is out now and is his first album away from his band The Coastguards since 2011's Sudden Fiction and the follow up to last year's Memory.
Working closely with orchestral arranger Arnulf Lindner, aka Skeleton Key, First Light focuses on the everyday first moment of consciousness before past, future, cynicism and memory come into focus. Below he talks us through the record.
"I wanted to open the album as a threshold between two worlds, a line drawn in the sand. A literal divide between the last record and this new one. So Careless is a story about crossing that line into a new place, carrying the weight of the past into new unfamiliar territory that appears barren at first but then blooms into new life and colour. From a hunger being 'By my side like a stray in the wild' to a place where 'the emptiest well floods till it's ready to spill.' I also imagined myself as a 1950's actor in a cheap western. Sort of a Bonanza alter ego.. Half macho hero archetype, half simple man forced to do his own stunts on a tight budget."
"This is my attempt at a monumental hymn to something small and personal. The idea that your world can collapse around you but if you hold on to your love, everything else can be rebuilt."
"I got into the idea that you could step into someone else's dream and inhabit that world. It's the story of one of those dream but works just as well as a narrative for accepting someone into your life consciously. That space exists only with that person, another person would have their own dream. You realise this world only exists with those individuals. 'Like a fossil in stone that sinks where it's thrown, I can't on my own'"
"Just a song about that weird moment when you wake up next to someone. A few observations on that moment."
"I wanted to close side A with a reflection of where the album began and open side B with a variation on that. One of the great things about making this record was that Arnulf and I have a completely opposite impulse musically.. I'd say I'm hearing this note and he'd say 'Oh no, I hear this note!' So we recorded two versions.. On the CD you hear the two versions glued together as one. On the LP, one version closes the side, the other opens the second side. I thought that was a great mirror for Arnulf and I."
"This was the first track I heard Arnulf's full arrangements for, we were both a little nervous. He had no idea if I'd like it, I had no idea what the hell he'd been up to. People fall out for far less than this. As we built up the layers of his orchestration, I could hear the detail, the understanding and the intuitive sensitivity and risks in his work. There was no looking back from that point, he had it covered.
The song itself started life in a bar in Copenhagen where smoking is still encouraged and the temperature makes it important to drink. My girlfriend said the words 'Old Kisses' in passing and in relation to something neither of us could remember clearly.. I said 'Can I take that?', she had no plans for the phrase so I got to take home a souvenier and build something new from a memory."
"An ode to not sleepwalking through life, set in an incident of sleepwalking. I spend too much time aimlessly staring out of the window at night, I began to imagine seeing this character in comical pyjamas sleepwalking through the silent, wet streets of my neighbourhood. I thought about the moment he wakes up, the sudden pang of fear and the gentle piecing together of the story as he becomes fully conscious. Choosing to see what's around you and knowing what's important. That sounds very optimistic. I'm capable of it, sometimes. I just need reminding occasionally."
"Like the dust jacket of a book, this tells me where the record came from initially.. The first waking moment, the strange privacy it allows, the time for semi concious reflection, the escape from night into day. Its purposefully short, as those moments are in reality."
"This came at the end of my writing time and also felt like the right way to close the record. Its a reminder not to take anything for granted, to remember everything is temporary, fleeting and unusual. 'Don't let is pass, these moments never last. They're stolen.. Broken in and taken,' and it repeats over and over so hopefully I won't forget."