When forced into relative solitude during a pandemic, what is it that we cling to? What is it that we long for? As expressed in “Pressing Matters,” the debut from Bristol-based producer and songwriter Sam Jackson’s new project Einsam, it is connection and contact for which he yearns.
“Pressing Matters” is a fresh electro-pop track that seamlessly matches a feel-good sentimentality with a metallic electronic beat. This layered soundscape persists throughout the track, at times evoking an air of electronic warmth reminiscent of Depeche Mode and at others a hypnotic mystery conjured by bands like Massive Attack. With light piano notes and an embryonic driving synth, Einsam captures the optimistic passion and possibility inherent in moments of intimacy. However, this warmth is met by shrill, siren-like drones and almost atonal metallic jabs which seems to be a call to listeners to remember the weight of our current era.
Yet these rival musical themes are fitting considering the song’s lyrical content which harps on human connection despite this time of inevitable disconnect. From the onset of the track, Einsam establishes the importance of intimacy, attributing Earth-like qualities to the “you” about who he sings. It’s as if by singing “landscape of hair/terrain of skin” Einsam establishes that this person he yearns to be with is his whole world. Human intimacy is what makes the world turn.
Ultimately, “Pressing Matters” is a fresh take on electro-pop that is able to capture both a sentimental yearn for intimacy and an immensely catchy hook that I’ll be singing for weeks to come.
Can you explain how this new project came to be, and where the name Einsam came from?
Yeah, after being in a couple bands in London and Brighton I moved to Vienna in 2016. I wanted to get to know a new city, new people, new language, and to get some of my own songs together. It was just meant to be three months but I got a bit carried away.
In German, the suffix “sam” is like our “some” in “gruesome” or “troublesome”, so I started to collect words with this ending as an initial way of orientating myself around German, and sticking them with a label-maker to my door. There was a lot that was unfamiliar, so it was a playful way of seeing a bit of myself in that environment. Einsam means solitary, literally “Onesome”, so it made sense for a solo project by someone called Sam.
How has your upbringing in Bristol and your years in Vienna influenced your music?
I guess their atmospheres and their cultures both have effects on what I’m writing. Much of the music is looking at ways of being, and being together, and the effects of language, places and people on that, so everywhere I’ve lived or spent a while in has contributed. But just for an example when comparing those two cities: where I am in Bristol, it generally feels like everyone’s more bunched together, streets are less wide, house walls are thinner, so you’re constantly negotiating other people and their space. In Vienna, it’s largely apartment buildings with inner courtyards, and perhaps partly for that reason it rarely feels packed. Late at night I could walk blocks and blocks without seeing anyone, and I felt like I had the place to myself. I love both of those environments and what they do to you, and find myself needing the other after a while, sort of like respiration.
“Pressing Matters” has themes of connection and human connection. How has the pandemic, a time of relative solitude, affected your songwriting and producing?
I’m in the studio pretty much every day, and with so much else closed or banned this has been a chance to focus and maybe stay relatively sane. Writing’s always been a solitary process though, sort of has to be; a lot of days sat in my underwear and headphones in my bedroom. I think it’s given lots of people an insight into hermetic life, and suddenly there’s more cause to share what I’m learning from that experience.
What was it like working with other artists to produce this track during the pandemic?
We’re quite lucky being able to fling stuff back and forth over the internet, but it’s definitely harder without being in person. I’ve been lucky so far with those I’ve worked with. [My producer] Cecil and I met up before the first lockdown and talked over directions to take from my demos, which helped us on the way. He’s got a great ear through so many different sound-worlds, and that’s ideal when you want the music to be free to fit the changing contexts of the words. We have weekly catch ups on video chat to talk over ideas, and I feel like my songs are in good hands when I bring them to him. For “Pressing Matters” I wanted a female voice to balance the chorus and was fortunate that Cecil could put me in touch with Sophie [Galpin], and that she was keen to do it, because she’s a phenomenal all-around musician and she nailed it straight away.
What do you hope your music is able to provide people during this pressing time?
I’d like it to make you think a little, and maybe to help stop thinking altogether sometimes. It’s something that should be both cerebral and physical. And music can be a good companion, so it’s there for that also.