Closing out what has been an unforeseeably testing year, we are humbled to welcome the wonderful Laila Sakini for our 15th NSMA-Mix to conclude the 1st year of our series. Melbourne-born Laila has become a shining voice with her ambient minimalism as a result of her work running the Day Care parties, through her own experimental productions and prolific mixes - whilst releasing her stunning debut album ‘Vivienne’ this year via Total Stasis (CS + Kreme, Elysia Crampton etc.), a collection of melancholic piano-led arrangements and collaged vocals.

Hey Laila, thanks for taking out time to answer these questions and do this mix for us! How have you been keeping lately? With everything that's happened across the last 8 months, I'm sure you may have experienced some changes to work and life etc - have you found any positives whilst adapting during this time?

Yeah lots of changes for me, as for all of us - I’d say I’m still adapting and developing an understanding of how I’m feeling, as there’s a quite a scope of emotions and a lot to take in. Music wise - I’ve had a year with some milestones I suppose - my first self-release, my debut album, very exciting things that were in the pipeline for some time, and then, covid hitting within a few weeks of my album launching sort of coincided with an increase in “attention” towards my work. Bit polar. Also, none of the economic infrastructure (gigs) is here now so I feel that missing element - even just as an output or exchange (putting aside the very serious income loss) after so much online action - it does feel weird to just go to bed say after releasing a record and doing a bunch of press and mixes.

Nonetheless there’s an abundance of personal gratification - I feel like this year I’ve enjoyed music in a very real way - which could be because we have little to no commercial incentives to do anything - the limits are defined more by our pleasures. Don’t like something? Quit. Does this sound cool? No, delete it - move on. I’m feeling surreal and dissociative sometimes, then urgent and decisive, as a result of the pandemic (I think - life is short etc). This is terrible for my email administration mindset, I’m behind in that regard, but it keeps things interesting and moving in the studio. So I have been able to write and release a bit.

Also most of this year I’ve been living abroad without access to any of the home comforts - and essentially prohibited from going home due to Aus border regulations - so it’s lots of new risks and ventures and attempts to survive, which is both terrifying and exciting. Negative / Positive.

I read somewhere that you had studied Criminal Justice & Sociology and in general have a deep interest in crime, politics, society etc. Do you find that these interests ever filter into your creative output?

Ah yes well I’m sure they do in many ways, ethical considerations, is one - I channel my energy in a very focused way, so to prevent a mental breakdown in the future I often ponder on ethics before envisioning my next steps. Otherwise, I would like to think Sociology groomed me to have a curious mind. In certain branches of more modern sociology the interactions within daily life are considered significant and worthwhile sources of information. So I feel I probably allow myself to run wild on an idea that I would have previously dismissed as rudimentary.

I think for a songwriter the gold is in some sort of Venn diagram between ordinary (understandable) and peculiar (original) - which is a founding sociological dyad.

You recently released a new EP ‘Strada’ via Boomkat. It’s a gorgeous collage of melancholic tracks infused with trip-hop and spiritual jazz touches that feels almost score-like, rather than a collection of individual songs. Was this your intention when creating the EP?

Oh no I’m not sure - things have to just make sense to you in the studio and the interpretation comes later. A flurry of intentions and energies that you fashion into a cohesive thing then step back and make sense of. For me I believe it started with the idea of a car - and driving something, then feeling like I needed to get a real rise. This was peak-lockdown – no friends for 4 months, living by the forest. I was not going to be moved by minimal, bare skeletal arrangements - I needed a proper, developed, solid song with a kick - something to pick me up, to grip on to with clear motifs and happy signifiers. Strada really was me moving into a proactive stage in all this and I’m very glad I did it for that reason.

Stephen’s Secret - Laila Sakini | Strada, Boomkat (2020)

There’s a German word called Kopfkino roughly translated as ‘Head Cinema’, which is essentially when your imagination wanders for a few moments - usually whilst listening to music - and you can picture very clearly scenes playing in front of you, as if you’re watching a film. I feel these songs really capture the essence of that. Is that fair to say?

Head Cinema well - ha, hmm. That’s what I get now when I listen to those songs - but because I remember the experience of making them and the references within are from times in my life. Audiences will have their own experiences with the music and perhaps they might get that too.

I want to briefly touch on your release 'Figures' from last year with spoken word poet Lucy Van. How did that collaboration come about, and what was the song writing process like?

I’ve known Lucy for at least 10 years, she’s like family almost, it was just a favour to her at the beginning to put some sound around her reading a poem. I had a bit of time on my hands so I came back with the first one quickly and we both thought it was fun, low pressure – I think we both recognised it was a rare chemistry we had, so I just started recording her doing more, I kept writing songs to illustrate her words and I feel like I put them in a drawer while doing other works. Later on my friend from NTS was like WHAT IS THIS and he insisted I play it on the radio. Interest then came from a friend and we very modestly packaged it up and put it out. In short I guess you could say I produced a record for her - but we feel more inclined to think of ourselves as a team, a band.

There’s a lot in her poems - I’m very glad we captured them at the time and wrapped them up.

False Ceiling - Laila Sakini & Lucy Van | Figures (2019)

Finally, tell us about this guest-mix and what is next for you?

This mix is sort of done in a rush - sorry - but I’m enjoying that approach more as it’s “DJ style”, real time. In here are colourful, warm, mostly feminine works that I feel bring new energy into lo-fi ambient pop. A few of my things in there too.

Up next, well, I honestly just want to clear some serious time to write (music and words) and read (sociology stuff) over winter and be healthy, safe and sane.

Project wise: have to wait till 2021 for announcements but gigs are supposedly back on the cards for summer - fingers crossed - and I have one final offer for this year, out now. Limited encore. See Boomkat.

It’s a series of works I made that I suppose reference my last two major works: Vivienne and Strada. More DIY though. It includes works from two of my friends who are both self taught: brass and cello.

I feel like it’s all just held together by a thread of enthusiasm and not much else - a terrible metaphor - but one that I think exemplifies my 2020 life.

Thanks so much for having me.

Laila Sakini’s gorgeous new EP ‘Strada’ is out now via Boomkat. Purchase here.
NSMA-Mix Artwork ‘Jupiter Landscape’ by Unknown Artist.