Based in Copenhagen, Sofie Birch is a Danish sound artist and electronic ambient musician whose work embraces sound installations, soundtracks for animated shorts as well as improvised DJ sets. A regular contributor to NTS online radio station, Sofie Birch’s sets can also be heard at various electronic music festivals around the world such as Mutek, Rewire, Unsound or CTM. Released on Danish label and inter-disciplinary platform InterCourse on 27 May 2022 last, her latest solo project Holotropica distils a soothing and wholesome sonic universe crafted with a selection of analogue synthesisers, bells, clarinet, kalimba or field recordings and bursting with life and spirituality.
As an experimental electronic composer, Sofie Birch draws inspiration from the natural world, from her spiritual practice of meditation, from longform improvisation (Behind Her Name Chestnuts Fall Forever), from collaboration (Repair Techniques with Johan Carøe; Mother with Kasper Bjørke) or even from ASMR sound design techniques (Whisper Fold Brush). A 2019 trip to Columbia during which “she began collecting a wide array of field recordings, from bird song to Colombian instruments and jungle ambiance” undoubtedly opened up new avenues for the artist. Released on cassette tape in June 2020 as an “audible postcard”, Hidden Terraces beautifully blends field recordings with synthesiser loops over two extended sound poems.
I imagine Holotropica as a place.
A point behind closed eyes. […]
Small blossoms that click and pop and coo an organ responsive language of saliva and heat. I imagine an organic atrium placed behind the forehead. where plants tumble out of colourful pots and vases, housing living creatures that talk and chirp and wrap themselves in the trees, stretching their branches in through the window holes.
As illustrated by the cover artwork (by Amanda Baum and Heidi Maribut), Holotropica is a lush, colourful and deceptively dense collection which elaborates on her previous work and on this particular South American sonic journey. Sofie Birch’s music tends to mirror the slow cycles of a living and breathing vegetation, emulating the gradual germination, growth and blooming cycles of plants constantly reaching for light. The album title itself is an ingenious portmanteau word combining the “tropical” motif with that of “holotropic breathwork”, a therapeutic breathing technique associated with meditation, healing and self-awareness.
To that effect, every track on Holotropica – each like a concise synopsis of a much longer piece – features a small cast of mainly female collaborators and all develop along gradually complex lines with new instruments cross-pollinating the existing sonic landscape. The opening “Observatory” and the lush “Humidity” showcase the saxophone of experimental jazz musician Nana Pi. Sound designer Astrid Fabrin contributes to “Surface Pan”. Portland-based sound artist Sage Fisher aka Dolphin Midwives lends mesmerising abstract harp loops to the immersive and aptly-titled “Hypnogogia” – another made up term combining “hypnosis” with “hypnagogic” describing the altered state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.
The fertile collaborations even extend to the visual sphere with three animators and video artists illustrating “Observatory”, “Hallu” and “The Sun XIX” respectively, the latter song named after a card from the Rider–Waite Tarot deck.
Released five months later, Sofie Birch and Polish vocalist and composer Antonina Nowacka’s collaboration Languoria almost plays like a companion to Holotropica. Having originally met at Kraków’s Unsound Festival for an improvised set, Sofia Birch’s contemplative layers and Antonina Nowacka’s improvised vocalisations develop an uncanny affinity.