Podcast 683: Laila Sakini
A whirlpool of emotions straight from Melbourne.
Podcast 683: Laila Sakini
A whirlpool of emotions straight from Melbourne.
Although we included Laila Sakini‘s Vivienne album in our favorite releases of 2020, we came to it extremely late. It was September when it first came across our desks and Sakini, a London-based Australian, released it in early February. As Boomkat said in their product review, the record sold out before anyone really had a chance to notice. It’s a wonderfully tender record, build around piano, vocals, and effects, and it’s been a source of indulgence for the XLR8R team ever since we discovered it.
Growing up in Melbourne, on Australia’s west coast, Sakini found music through piano, but she veered away in pursuit of academic work. As she began her career as a copywriter, she started to make music and mixtapes on the side, for nothing other than her own pleasure. While she enjoyed music, she didn’t want to “give it away if it is not wanted,” she says, but she found herself inundated with booking requests. Because there was clearly more demand for her music than for her skills in other fields, she decided to pursue it more readily.
In 2015, Sakini relocated to London, craving fresh musical input. It was a strange time to leave because her reputation in Melbourne was growing; she was DJing around the city around a couple of times each week, compiling mixes for local magazines like Careful, and co-curating Day Care, a Sunday afternoon event promoting non-club music. Slowly and steadily, London shaped her into a song-writer and producer, and she released her debut EP, Figures, in collaboration with poet Lucy Van in 2017.
In the years since, Sakini has drifted between London and Melbourne but the drive to produce has gripped her. It took until 2020 for things to speed up, beginning with Vivienne, on Total Stasis, and rolling through Your Day Is My Night, a sonic rumination on romance and and distance. She closed the year with two exclusives on Boomkat Editions, beginning with Strada, an outing in seductive spiritual jazz and trip-hop, and then Into the Traffic, Under the Moonlight, which expanded on the minimalist palette of Vivienne. Against a backdrop of global chaos, Sakini’s brittle, thoughtful compositions resonate even more deeply. You can file her work alongside her compatriots like CS + Kreme, HTRK, Jonnine.
Sakini recorded her XLR8R podcast this past week at home, and it follows the same vibe as her semi-regular NTS slot. Instead of committing to a genre, sound, or era, it flutters in-between, from jazz, to ambient, to trip-hop, showcasing some of Sakini’s favorite records of past and present. It’s a beautiful collection of emotions and, like Sakini’s productions, it feels tangible and personal. Watch out for the ear-worms that that’ll be sure to catch your attention—including the opener from Bohren & der Club of Gore, a German jazz band.
01. What have you been up to recently?
I am going through some 2021 proposals at the moment (there are some wild ones) and trying to sort out what’s viable/going to be fun, possible, etc., and I feel like I’m re-imagining what things could be like after lockdown and how to best use this transitioning period. I’ve also been playing with strings, cooking, hiding indoors from Covid, scheming, and surviving.
02. How did you find your way into music?
Via my parents, I’d say. They bought me instruments when I was very young and encouraged me and my siblings to use them. I seemed to take music a bit more seriously than the others, and I went on to take lessons, join the choir, etc. Then for the last decade or so I’ve been working as a DJ and event organizer, and now I’m limited to being a musician and producer which might be why my release output seems more concentrated. I’ve done other musical things such as work in a record shop etc.,—music always finds a way into my world, wherever I seem to be.
03. You had a big 2020, with the success of Vivienne. How do you reflect on the album looking back?
The album feels much the same to me as when I made it. Despite other interpretations, reviews, and what have you, it retains the same meaning to me. 2020 was a big year but Vivienne still seems small and private and it has been a nice parcel to carry with me through such a dramatic year.
04. How did you go about recording the album, and is there a story behind it?
I recorded it at home just playing with keys and I got a bit carried away. The recording was done with several takes and layers so it’s not actually a record that’s possible to play in its entirety as a “piece.” There is a story behind it, of course, and the titles and themes are almost embarrassingly confessional. If I were to explain in words then it would take ages and likely not make much sense.
05. What is it that motivates you to make music?
Curiosity at the moment. Hearing things take form is pretty exciting, and with autonomy so limited it’s a tempting proposal to go at things in a solo capacity, fleshing out your own ideas, in your own space.
06. What music did you listen to through 2020?
Ooh. Well, I believe I was still much in upbeat dance world before Covid, then I went through a Graham Lambkins “domestic settings” phase, then specific sections or chord progressions took my ear. Then gradually lots of throwbacks to old hype tracks. I believe I revisited Motown ballads, Beastie Boys, DJ Krush, female folk music from the ’60s, lots of trip-hop, ’90s electronica, and Lynch-ian score style pads.
07. When and where did you record this mix?
In my bedroom, over two cold, cold days.
08. What can the listener expect with it?
I would suggest keeping an open mind.
09. How did you go about choosing the records that you’ve included?
I started with what I’ve been listening to most recently—very winter-appropriate music by a group called Bohren & der Club of Gore, then I let things slip into other territories without ever really letting them settle in one place. The mix ends with a New Zealand song by a favorite singer-songwriter, Maxine Funke, which I certainly am happy about.
10. What’s on your horizon for 2021?
A few solid plans are in place but many are still up in the air. I think it’s best I don’t hazard a guess. Hopefully I can: (i) keep up with the music more; (ii) and witness a turn of events that sees some of the madness in the world wane.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Bohren & der Club of Gore “Im Rauch” ([PIAS] Recordings)
02. Bohren & der Club of Gore “Patchouli Blue” ([PIAS] Recordings)
03. Unknown “Unknown” (Unknown)
04. Major Force West Productions “Heavy Loaded Head” (Mo Wax)
05. Techno Animal “Catatonia” (Force Inc. Music Works)
06. REQ & Smudge “Change The Beat” (ETCH Remix) (Seagrave)
07. AFX “qu 1” (Unknown)
08. Die Welttraumforscher “Darktown: Weites Feuer” (A Colourful Storm)
09. Kallista Kult “strings of life part three” (A Colourful Storm)
10. YLHOOI “When You’re Up There” (ALTERED STATES TAPES)
11. Heather Leigh “Passionate Reluctance” (Ideologic Organ)
12. Tim Jackiw “Composite Memory 7” (Daisart)
13. picnic “basket” (Daisart)
14. Malvern Brume “Tarmac Shakes Into New Shapes” (Forthcoming)
15. Razen “The Night Receptionist Pt. I” (meakusma)
16. Heather Leigh “Fairfield Fantasy” (Ideologic Organ)
17. SPIVAK “Hardware Store Ballad” (ECSTATIC)
18. Jonnine “I Feel Like I’m In A Film” (Boomkat Editions)
19. Maxine Funke “Moody Relish” (A Colourful Storm)