Hel is a Place Online | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Hel is a Place Online 

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There's a certain nostalgia that comes with the word "server," evoking a tech-obsessed early millenium where hackers in movies hung out online learning dark secrets of the web. And while most people are finding fresh new ways of getting online inspired by not being able to go out, the artists of local electronic label Hel Audio are way ahead of the curve.

On the Hel Discord server, they find casual conversation via the trackless, easy-going forum-like space. Though Discord was built for communication in the world of gaming, for Hel, it's quickly become a multi-use text-only space where those on the server can share links to content. Artists behind local names like Mooninite, Siak, Passive Tourist, Bobo and others gather to swap inspirations and interests, to trade tips and tricks on staying focused on their music-making and−most importantly−simply to talk.

It was around October 2019 that the project came to life, with the help of local synth-pop aficionado Kari Jørgensen, who performs under the moniker Bobo. She was spending time on another Discord server, where there was a focus on pop music and "its industries and politics," and recognized it as "a pliable medium that takes the shape of whatever people are posting."

Jørgensen approached her brother, Karl Jørgensen, about starting such a server for Hel Audio, the latter's rich and vibrant electronic label filled with local experimental artists and sound-enthusiasts (including Bobo). Hel label artist Andrew Aguilera (Mooninite, Angel Magic) also put in his two cents, telling City Weekly, "A server seemed like a cool idea for me personally to take a look at who is interested in joining a social space with people specifically from the Hel Audio feeds." Together, they founded the label and opened it up to their peers.

"What I'm seeing so far is a lot of chatter from film enthusiasts, left-field music recommendations and general advice on music production and process discussion," Aguilera says of how the server has been operating. Kari Jørgensen also notes topics besides music being discussed on the server, such as TV shows and movies, particularly their soundtracks. While she says the server rarely swerves into technical stuff like gear-talk, a new collaboration channel has just been added to the server, where one can start or embellish someone else's track, "sort of an exquisite corpse of music."

Kari Jørgensen describes one instance in particular of this sort of give-and-take inspiration between herself and fellow Hel artist Burnin': "I became obsessed with the song 'Rain' by Madonna after seeing it used in Uncut Gems, posted it on the Discord, and it ended up being used as a sample in Burnin's WAV Network track.

The WAV Network Compilation, released in February 2020, was a product of the Hel Master Terminal, an ongoing side project of Karl Jørgensen. He describes as a set of generative creative tools featuring pattern generators for drum machines, synthesizers, titles and artwork—all of which artists had at their disposal when crafting the WAV tracks. Discord functions for them similarly, providing an insulated space for conversation and inspiration to occur.

"I love learning about other people's creative habits, techniques, what's inspiring them, etc," Kari Jørgensen says. "Also, I'm not an incredibly social person, even online, so it's been refreshing to have a low-key, friendly space where I can interact with people without feeling hyper-exposed and aggressively advertised at."

Beyond direct cultural and media influences, artists also share their thoughts on and approaches to making their kind of experimental music. "It's definitely added something to my work process, as far as hearing other people's philosophies on how they work or even think about their medium," Aguilera says. "For instance, someone had a general question on the topic of music-making, and Kari had a piece of advice that had really stuck with me. She said, 'Gotta stay present in the fact that working on music is never a waste of time. The work is the only thing there is.' Small gems like that really help me, and at that moment I knew the server was worth checking on a regular basis."

With that in mind, Aguilera also wants to contribute more of his own resources on the server. "I plan to put more things out there like sample packs, mixes and maybe small things I produce for people on the server only," he says. Plans like these to grow the content of the server are good, since the artists−along with the rest of us—will likely be cooped up and hungry for inspiration for some time to come.

Karl Jørgensen also hopes there will be more collaboration through the server, and says, "It's definitely a good space in the current world. It's nice to have a positive space to share thoughts." And as Kari Jørgensen adds, "In this nearly-unprecedented situation we're in, finding ways to connect with and support others feels pretty crucial."

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Erin Moore

Erin Moore

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Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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