With a compact setup and an eclectic choice of instruments, Ösla creates lush arrangements that sound much bigger than the sum of their parts.
For Henry Armbrecht and Bradley Thomas Turner, Ösla is the product of two best friends getting together to write and perform music. Henry, a self-taught singer, guitarist, and keyboardist, started playing guitar at age 11 and switched to the keyboard as a teen. Bradley is classically trained and studied music in college, getting a Master of Fine Arts degree in Music Composition from Vermont College of Fine Arts. "We've known each other for 10 years and started out touring together as two separate solo acts. I was performing as Ösla and would record new music at Bradley's home studio", Henry explains. "Bradley was mainly involved on the production side, but gradually became more involved creatively with each project until now we consider ourselves a duo". It is a partnership that has served them well and with three albums under their belt, a productive one as well. The music centers around Henry's soft vocals and keys, while Bradley fills in the bottom end with electric bass and doubles on keys, sometimes hammering the bass notes with one hand while playing the keyboard with the other. The TR-808 takes on drum duty and the arrangements are performed live. It is an old-school approach that is quite flexible and entertaining, requiring a bit of choreography to pull off. The duo's sound is heavily influenced by their choice of instruments. "I've been obsessed with the Mellotron since I was a teenager", Henry says. "The Mellotron samples sound incredible and have an inherently lush quality to them which is a big part of our sound". In fact, the Mellotron Company has featured both Ösla and Bradley in episodes of their YouTube series called Home Tapes, for their use of the Mellotron M4000D mini and the Micro. Their Mellotrons are just a small part of Ösla's compact touring gear. The group also performs with a Yamaha Reface CP, a Roland Boutique JU-06 and TR-08, bass and electric guitars, and a vintage Yamaha PSS-560. "I first became aware of the PSS around 2013 when I saw the band Phoenix playing them at a show", explains Henry. "It's super durable and low-maintenance, sounds better than it should, and I have never had to change the batteries in nearly a decade". Touring with such a compact rig developed out of necessity. "Bradley and I used to tour out of my Mitsubishi Lancer, so all of our clothes and equipment had to fit into a really small sedan", Henry says. "We had a lot of practice adapting our sets so that we could fit everything into the car". Henry and Bradley are very portable. In fact, Henry works as a ski instructor in Utah every winter, and the duo divides their time between Utah and their hometown in Alabama. "I used to move between Alabama and Utah twice and year for work, so my setup has always been very streamlined", says Henry.
When asked about their recording process, Bradley describes it as "a conversation between two best friends. Most often Henry sends the seed of an idea to me in the form of a roughly recorded chord progression or melodic motif", he explains. "From there, I will usually respond with a simple remark or musical ideas like possible chord substitutions or melodic developments". This process is continued back and forth until Henry has recorded most of the instrumental ideas and vocals. Then Bradley begins the process of mixing and adding instruments and sounds. "Essentially the roles are reversed at this point with me driving the process and Henry providing critical feedback as the production unfolds", Bradley explains. "This back-and-forth process continues until we are both happy. That means we may go back to an earlier version or rewrite the music or lyrics". The result is a collection of finely crafted tunes that subtlety displays the musical genius of these masters. The way these ambient pieces chase away the stresses of our everyday lives is a testament to their craft. The creative arc delivered across their three albums demonstrates Bradley's creative contributions and the maturity that comes with the duo's experience. Listening through their catalog, you begin to notice little things like backup vocals, bass lines, and synth leads creeping into the compositions. I'm excited to see just how far they can go!
I asked about future plans and Henry said, "we have a lot of new music in the works that they are very excited about. We hope to release some of it in the next month or two. As far as future aspirations go, I haven't thought about it a lot. I get a lot of personal fulfillment from creating and performing music with Bradley and I just want to continue to do that".
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