Editor's Note: Ben Tatlow isn't just someone who wants to write about Christian ambient music; he's actively make it as part of the duo ambient bands Salt of the Sound and Narrow Skies. He has a fantastic, holistic perspective on the genre, and we're delighted to learn more about it through this exclusive column. And hey, go check out his band's new album, Meditations Vol. 3.
Earlier in the year, we introduced the emerging genre of Christian Ambient music (you can read more here and here), and we're now featuring some of the Christian musicians and artists who are creating this meditative, reflective music. Last month Simon Wester spoke to us about the inspiration behind his music, and today we're excited to connect with Minneapolis-based composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and all-round inspiring human being Chris Bartels, who amongst other projects releases ambient music under the moniker Elskavon.
The name Elskavon is the combination of two Icelandic words (Elska means "love" and von means "hope") and I sure you'll agree that this is a perfect description of the beautiful music that we will explore today.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Ethereal, cinematic instrumental music. Emotive soundscapes. And, with the new album, a touch of trippiness here and there.
Tell us a bit about what you're currently working on?
I just released my fourth full-length album in January, called Skylight. It had been over three years since putting out any new Elskavon music, so I feel I learned a lot and stretched myself creatively with this more than ever before, and I hope that shows. I'm doing some interesting collaborations with other ambient or modern classical artists this year, which is a new thing for me. I also have a pop band with my wife, and we've been writing loads of new songs. The band is called Bora York, and this next album will be our third.
What inspires you as an artist? And how does that link to your Christian faith?
I wouldn't even call it a link--I would call it a root. My faith is the root of my art and probably my biggest influence for the music I write. Now, my songs can be about all sorts of specific emotions or circumstances or stories, but at the foundation of it all is this idea of hope, and of love. And I believe the purest form of hope and love is through knowing Jesus, knowing that there's a purpose and plan for all of us to live a truly full life. For me, I wouldn't be where I am today pursuing this career, doing something I love and am passionate about. By nature, I grew up with a sort of timid and careful personality. But because I have faith, I've been willing to trust, and take risks, and jump off some cliffs here and there, which has led me to pursue this career that makes me feel so alive. I'm only getting started though.
Do you feel the music you write fits within the Christian music scene?
From the very start of writing music, I've always just... written. I guess I just don't think too much about what something may or may not fit within. I've always felt there's just this absolute need to create music that stirs in me, almost like I don't have a choice. I have to write. Luckily for me, I love doing it! Like I said, my faith is a big influence on my music, and beyond that, I'd like to just put stuff out there and hope that it inspires, moves, and entertains people.
What does Christian ambient music mean to you?
I think music can be an avenue to relationship. It's a universal language. In some way or another, music is meaningful to everyone. My main creative passion and gifting in life is music, and if I actually believe there's a God that can bring unending hope and life to anyone, I want my passion and gifting to align with that, and to be a way to connect and relate with, and love others.
Huge thanks to Chris for sitting down with us. You can listen to all of his music on your favorite music download or streaming site, including over on the Elskavon website as well as Spotify and iTunes.
If you've enjoyed exploring the beautiful instrumental music of Elskavon, you may also like our playlist of Christian Ambient music, which includes a few artists who we'll be discussing music and faith with over the coming months.
Wishing you peace and love wherever you are today!
Ben Tatlow is a producer and one-half of Salt Of The Sound. Alongside his wife Anita, they write music for times of prayer and reflection: their new EP In Prayer is out now and was described by NewReleaseToday as leading the listener "into a place of meditation and rest." They also curate a weekly email-based devotional series, entitled Monday Morning Meditations.
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