The swirling, steely songs on Amber Arcades’ dazzling debut are the work of Annelotte De Graaf, a woman inspired by ‘time, continuity, coincidence and magic’, as well as early-morning jetlag (on Turning Light) and an artist’s plans for a utopian city (Constant’s Dream). That may all sound pretty dreamy, and these songs do have wonderful ethereal qualities, but De Graaf’s dreams are not the whimsical kind. De Graaf’s dreams have led to her working as a legal aide on UN war crime tribunals, to inviting skint strangers to share her Utrecht squat, and to spending her life savings on a flight to New York because that’s where she wanted to record her first album.
‘I made a list of five producers – I went on Discogs and looked at records I liked and who had produced them, and I made the list and I emailed them with the demos I’d made at home in Garageband,’ she says. And that’s how she found producer Ben Greenberg. ‘It was kind of scary, because he was definitely the odd one out, looking at the stuff he’d done. The others were more mainstream, and Ben was the weird one who’d produced all this hardcore punk shit. That’s also what I thought would make it interesting.’
Greenberg has worked with Destruction Unit and The Men – bands who play punk, skronky jazz, experimental guitar noise and raucous pop – but he’d never worked with a Dutch artist whose only previous release was an EP of melancholic folk ballads.
‘With the songs I write, it could easily have been a very different record,’ says Annelotte. ‘One other producer I was talking to was a really West Coast guy, he’d worked with Best Coast, that was kind of his vibe. It would be interesting to compare this Fading Lines with the record it could’ve been. It would have been very different.’
Annelotte and Ben worked with Shane Butler and Keven Lareau of Quilt on guitar and bass, and Jackson Pollis of Real Estate on drums (plus Meg Duffy playing slide guitar on the eerie, clip-clopping Apophenia) at Strange Weather recording studio in Greenpoint. They listened to ‘a lot of Suicide, a lot of Broadcast, Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, The Gun Club…‘ and worked on the songs that Annelotte had written at home in Utrecht.