If you’ve ever wanted to live within the twilight hours, Danish-born producer and multi-disciplinary artist Galimatias is your artist. Born Matias Køedt, the LA-based polymath makes twinkling and winding R&B tunes meant to be played at the moment blue hour overtakes the sky. Galimatias, 29, first made a splash in 2015 with his collaborative Urban Flora EP with Alina Baraz. In the five years since, Galimatias has been something of a recluse, releasing a slow drip of singles in place of a full-length, working on his craft in private.
Galimatias’ latest work, Renaissance Boy, releasing August 28, is a glimmering whirl of electronic sketches and heartfelt vocal deliveries. The standout song “Let Go” is awash in subtle flourishes. Climbing rhythms and mesmerizing strings transition us from vocal moment to vocal moment, wherein Galimatias’ voice creeps forward as he sings about yearning for a toxic relationship. The poetry of “Let Go” feels classic, as if he is dipping into an eon’s worth of wounded souls and propelling forward their collective angst. Remarkably, Renaissance Boy is the first time Galimatias is featured as a singer of his own production.
Renaissance Boy feels like the total package in 2020: consumable, challenging at the right times, and self-effacing in pockets of danceability. Take the brilliant sparkle of “Sinner,” which feels like the morning sun shining on dried flecks of white wine the morning after you dodge a sugary hangover. A project meant to be heard in one attentive sitting, Galimatias’ biggest wish for the album is for the listener to experience Renaissance Boy as a whole. A lofty goal for the streaming industry, but one wish this album deserves.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Let’s start at the beginning. When did music first enchant you?
Galimatias: That’s a long time ago! It could’ve been Michael Jackson because I have an early memory of dancing in my parents’ living room. I would force them to sit down and watch me do a choreography [routine] by this seven-year-old kid [Gali]. I was dancing to Michael Jackson, so there must have been some connection there. I don’t know if it was the first captivation with music, but it was one of the first.
You’re such a poet, what literary figures inspire you?
Probably number one is Frank Ocean. He’s always been a big influence for me. He’s good at world creation. You listen to his music and feel you are somewhere physical. That ties into the lyrics, instrumentation, everything. He does that incredibly well.
In the five years since the Urban Flora EP with Alina Baraz, you’ve been working on your craft with a steady drip of singles releasing over the years. How did you know it was time to come back?
That’s a good question. Some of it is internal, and some of it is also external. As I make stuff, I pass it around to people I trust, and I think… Sometimes, if I’m excited about something and I send it to some other people, and they’re not as excited about it, it’ll impact my opinion of that track. Over the years, I’ve finally surpassed the amount of craft I felt like was necessary to create a solid album, to me. And also, I felt like other people around me also enjoyed [it]. That just took a while! It was a lot of experimentation. The sheer technique of singing… That’s been the hardest thing for me to learn. It was taking a while to get to a point where I felt like this was good enough to put out.
Renaissance Boy is the first time you’re singing on your tracks. How did you get to a place of comfort with your voice? When I hear my voice, I’m like, “Oh, my God…”
Everybody probably has that feeling, even accomplished singers. It’s a lot of trial and error, which will get you to a point of comfort. For me, if I hear a dry signal of my voice, I’ll be like, “What the hell is this?” But… If you come up with a melody you’re excited about and lyrics you’re confident in, and you start to work with a vocal, all of a sudden, through all these links in the chain, you’ve built this new thing. Doing that process over and over teaches you a lot. Some things will work, and some things won’t, and I threw out the stuff that didn’t.
Was there any fear? You’re putting yourself out there in a brand new way.
Absolutely! Every time I put out a track, there’ll always be some fear. It takes a minute to listen to it objectively, if that’s even possible. When I make something, I’m super excited about it, and once you put it out, it’s the most cathartic and also the [scariest] moment. Now, it’s going to be judged, and you never quite know how it’s going to be perceived. I try to tell myself that no matter what, the only thing I can do is keep going and working. If I can keep having fun with it and feel like I’m being challenged and overcoming a challenge in new ways… I don’t see any reason to stop.
I like that the new album, Renaissance Boy, is a play on “renaissance man.” Why invoke the idea of boyhood?
Exactly, you’re totally right. It is a play on renaissance man. Insofar as that means somebody who has a lot of skill or knowledge in many different areas. Everybody strives towards that goal. For me, that goal is manifested in different realms of music creation. I want to be a renaissance man that can do all these things, but it will always just be a pursuit because there will always be more to learn. I’ll never be the expert on all those skills, so that’s why I see myself as a Renaissance Boy. It’ll always be a chase.
That’s exciting, though, because we get to learn forever. I’ll never be a master writer, and that makes me happy because that means I’ll never stop writing.
Exactly! That’s the point. There’s a word from Zen Buddhism I like: Shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” The concept of that is you always approach everything with a beginner’s mind, even if you’re an expert on something. The way to get better is to keep thinking as a beginner. And keep being humbled by whatever knowledge others may have to share because there are always ways to improve. There’s no such thing as being it. You can always discover new avenues and learn more stuff.
In the past, you described working on your solo material as “liberating.” How did that play into Renaissance Boy?
There’s absolutely zero restrictions. When you work with somebody else, it can be fun and rewarding, but you still—to some extent—have to evaluate whether the other person will be down with whatever idea you have at the moment. There’s so much value to collaborating with others, but there’s something to working on your own. You can do things that are off-the-cuff and seemingly random to others, but [have] significant value to yourself. I think the piano composition on this album is probably a little strange, but that was something that felt right to me.
Which song on Renaissance Boy was most difficult for you to put together, the one most like a puzzle?
For sure, that is “Sly.” That one… A very, very long process. It’s funny you say puzzle because that’s how I thought about it. I had so many different versions—15 versions—of that [song]. So many different versions of the intro and verse. It just took a long time, but I am happy with where it ended up and even the fact that I [finished] it. When you work on something for a long time, you exhaust yourself and your inspiration. Sometimes it can be straight-up impossible to finish something if you’ve worked on it for a year or two because it feels like prodding at a corpse.
What’s your biggest wish for this album?
I hope people will listen from start to finish. I feel like the experience is lost if you don’t. If I have one wish, that would be it. “I wish that whoever experiences this, will get it as a whole instead of just moments of it.”