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One EskimO makes Aspen debut

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelly FogelBritish quartet One EskimO, led by Kristian Leontiou, lower right, makes its Aspen debut Tuesday at Belly Up, opening for Gomez.
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ASPEN – Kristian Leontiou shows an uncommon attachment to his music. He refers to his sounds as “magical,” “meaningful” and “dreamy,” and the British-born singer-songwriter put years of work into his latest recording. So the idea of making bland music, or putting his energy behind a project that he doesn’t fully believe in is especially repellent.

Leontiou had a chance to chase success early in his career, when his 2004 debut album “Some Day Soon” soared up the U.K. charts. But Leontiou, who was 22 at the time, didn’t have full artistic authority over “Some Day Soon,” or in the direction his career was headed. So he pulled the plug on his major-label deal and turned toward a sound that felt more creatively pure.

“I didn’t have a hand in the production, and that’s a big part of it for me,” he said from Chicago. “It had a clean, generic kind of production. For me to be promoting something I wasn’t completely behind … .”

His latest project is nothing if not precise and personal. After splitting with his former team, Leontiou rounded up a new group of collaborators and began work on an album that was stamped with his vision. His conception of the sound was so vivid that it was accompanied by visual imagery.

“It was a very filmic sound developing,” he said. “I wanted this tribal element to come across, and this idea of snowscapes just kind of grew together with the sounds.”

Thus was born One EskimO, and its eponymous debut album, released in September. The music is the product of meticulous thinking – Leontiou used 150 tracks on one song alone, “Chocolate” – but the album also has a looseness, and an airy atmosphere. You could call it techno-folk.

“They’re not big, overbearing parts,” noted Leontiou of his production aesthetic. “We keep a basic simplicity. You just put in what the song needs, rather than overcooking it. There are a lot of subtleties running through it.”

Part of the reason “One EskimO” took so long to come into being was Leontiou’s desire to capture not only the sounds he was hearing, but also the images he saw. A companion to the CD is a series of animated videos that are as detailed and idiosyncratic as the sound.

“I was trying to get away from pop videos, videos that made no sense with the songs,” he said. “I spent so much time on the lyrics, I wanted an imagery that went well with it, something to bring the album to life.”

When possible, One EskimO incorporates its animated films into its live performances. That won’t be the case when the group makes its Aspen debut Tuesday at Belly Up, as it gets a short set opening for fellow Brits, Gomez. But Leontiou says his four-piece band still provides an experience for the eyes. “It’s quite interesting to watch. It’s quite visual, our show.” he said.

And the aural experience is something that even Leontiou is pleased with.

“I’m more than satisfied,” he said of the One EskimO sound. “I mixed the album with a friend of mine, and I produced the album. I got to finish every track the way I wanted.”

stewart@aspentimes.com


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