Isla Den: The WL Interview

Purveyors of: Transcendental electronic pop world-building

File next to: Atlas Sound, Beach House, Yumi Zouma

Playing: Wavelength Winter Festival Night 2, Saturday Feb. 16 @ The Garrison. Get tickets here!

Isla Den is a Toronto-based electronic dream-pop duo – the brainchild of Ellie Manning and Michael Reale. The duo is passionate about audio-visual works and musical storytelling, amplifying its immersive qualities with video, installations, printmaking and more. Community-driven collaborations, DIY performance and interactive events are integral to their sense of togetherness in increasingly isolated times. Wavelength’s Aaron Dawson stepped into their world to find out what shapes their reality.

Isla Den seems to be all about creating a world, a place we came to “when the world broke apart into a million pieces.” I love this about you, it feels like a big mystery that I get to try and solve, piece by piece. This fractured identity seems collected together from field recordings, home movies & phone videos; part travelogue, part journal and part album. How does building this world make sense to you?

Nothing really makes sense in any world. We are building the world of Isla Den just as much as it is building us. Everything is a refraction of light and our world is formed through the patterns that appear in between each grain of static.

There seems to be a fascination in the videos with finding beauty in everyday life. The videos create this intense collage of densely layered meaning over quite beautiful, often idyllic music. Holograms meeting rivers of lava. Is it a wish? Is it a critique?

Both ~ elemental dualities in a feedback loop. The present day is all we have and the most beautiful sun belongs to tomorrow.

You have three EPs coming out in sequence – they appear to be following a colour code… can you tell us about this ongoing story?

This is something that is still unfolding but we’ve always been keen on an episodic approach to making art. There is a clear narrative we are exploring, but what happens next is unknown to us until it reveals itself. The psychology of colour is very impactful for this world, the hues are signifiers of something larger than colour and light.

Water (EP01) > Fire (EP02) > Forest (EP03) > ? (LP01) ?

I love the live video art aspect of your shows, and you also often perform live video with other artists. How did you get into that?

Tangibility is something we really appreciate in art and music making. There’s a long list of people that got us interested in live visuals and we appreciate the push. Two of those people are Peter Rahul and Phillipe Blanchard – their contributions to this project came at pivotal moments when we needed guidance. Nam June Paik and Fluxus ()  have also been quite influential in providing historical context.

You have so much enthusiasm when it comes to ideas and promoting your music. Coming at things from “after the breaking of the music industry,” how do you see artists promoting themselves these days? Is it all about embracing the age of digital tools, is it about wanting to get back in touch with personal connections, or how does it all come together for you?

It’s about resonate connections and integrating media with pure love. Everything we do is a direct reflektion of the people who inspire us and our primary mission is to say thank you.

You are creating some installations for the upcoming Winter Festival, can you give us a hint about what’s in store?

A volcano is erupting somewhere on earth and the only path is down. Shadow, light and dark will coalesce with spirit to form an EccoPortal into a new dimension. We’re excited to bring our friends onto the stage.

If you’re a water sign, what blending mode does that make you?