Last week, COOL HEAT – also known as the solo project of Chicago-based musician and photographer Eden Sierotnik – released his stunning debut album Nowhere. It is the follow-up to Sierotnik’s fantastic 2021 EP Levitate, which expressed his atmospheric, melancholic take on shoegaze and dream pop that was first introduced in his gorgeous self-titled debut just one year prior. Multi-faceted and effortlessly modern, the project’s name is apt; with every single track in his discography, Sierotnik proves with his highly meticulous, maximalist synth work that it is entirely possible to balance opposing ideas, sounds, and textures with finesse. Nowhere, though perhaps alluding to a place both illusory and fantastically out of reach, nevertheless showcases steady foundations through calculated layering, but not without, of course, its equally substantial decorative flourishes that linger well after the close.
Like throwing dust onto a ghostly presence to trace its shape, like the slow, patient titration of acid into base with bated breath, counting the seconds before the expanse turns opaque, COOL HEAT has an unpredictable, yet highly immaculate aura; the music seems to create everything from nothing at the flick of the wrist, achieving a remarkable sense of everywhere from nowhere.
We were lucky enough to interview Sierotnik about the new album. Read while listening to a few tracks below!
Kid With A Vinyl: Congratulations on the release of your debut album Nowhere! Inspiration and concept wise, how is this album different from your EPs COOL HEAT (2020) and Levitate (2021)?
Eden Sierotnik: Thank you! I think that it being an album altered the creative process since on the previous EPs I was a bit less concerned with how it flowed from track to track. This time around I spent a lot more time nailing down concrete ideas through demos. I had more of a grasp on how I wanted the whole thing to feel and sound, especially after finishing the first few songs. I was hyper focused on making sure there was a consistent sound and vibe throughout the album, which probably wasn’t so apparent on the previous releases.
KWAV: What initially drew you to the dream/synth pop genre? I hear aspects of coldwave and darkwave here, too.
ES: I remember the first Sun Airway album, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier, really inspired me to make music that incorporated a lot more synth + drum machine. All of the textural stuff on there is really beautiful, it’s one that I constantly revisit. Also, yes over the past few years especially I’ve been listening to a lot more darkwave/coldwave. Those influences weren’t as present in some of my earlier releases but I’m happy they were able to be more front and center for this album. Bands like Cold Cave, Drab Majesty, and Soft Kill have been some of my favorites.
KWAV: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing/producing process?
ES: Sure! I record everything in my apartment here in Chicago. I usually start off the same way every single time, by making a loop on an analog drum machine. Once I mess around with that and have something that I like, I’ll lay that down as a foundation to build off of. Most of the time I’ll have ditched this initial loop after I’ve recorded everything else but it helps me to have a steady beat playing while I’m trying to improvise ideas. For this album I wrote the bass parts for pretty much every single song first. I had a lot of ideas on how I wanted it to sound and in my head it was important to have this “driving” bass line as present as possible. Once I have all the main rhythmic parts down, I record a ton of guitar and synth parts. The vocals will come last and are probably my least favorite thing to actually track. I will usually need a lot more listens of a particular take before I’m satisfied. The whole process is quite meticulous either way you look at it though. I feel a lot more at ease when I’m laying down some textural instrumentals.
KWAV: Along with COOL HEAT, you’re also a photographer. Do these two mediums ever overlap for you? Do you ever find yourself seeing music in images, or vice-versa?
ES: I think there’s definitely some overlap, at least with the work I’m creating. I was making music for a long time before I picked up a camera so I think I was definitely “seeing music in images” when I was developing my photography skills. I think that my songs and photography pair really well together, which is why I use them for all of the artwork for my releases. Especially with the album, I wanted the photos to have a consistent theme on their own in addition to matching the vibe of the music.
KWAV: Since your debut EP, we’ve always found your music to be incredibly cinematic – a lush soundtrack to a memory. Was this deliberate in any way?
ES: I think it didn’t necessarily start out that way, but grew over time. It was most deliberate on this album. I leaned into it a lot more than I did on previous stuff. Overall I’m usually just going with whatever feels natural. In the past when I would be working on a song that I wanted to feel a bit different, it still seemed to turn out atmospheric no matter what. Sometimes it’s just better to go with what feels right and stay in your comfort zone.
KWAV: I like to ask this of everyone we have the privilege to interview, as the answer changes slightly each time: What are your thoughts on expressing abstract concepts like nostalgia within music, especially within your own? Do you believe it’s an inevitable by-product of genres like dream pop, or something that’s deliberately constructed?
ES: Yeah it does feel like that’s pretty common amongst dream pop artists. I can’t say it’s something I think about too much when I’m working on a song, but there are times where I can hear the cinematic side. The way the synth sounds come out for this project lend to that for sure. There’s a meditative element to them that I always get lost in.
KWAV: Was there any point during the creation of Nowhere that left you feeling overwhelmed or discouraged? How do you overcome creator’s block, either in music or photography?
ES: There were a few moments! It took me a little bit to get into a steady groove at the beginning so I was a bit overwhelmed at first. The last thing I tracked was the vocals, and about halfway through I started to feel like I was running out of ideas and was feeling discouraged for a spell. Whenever that happens everything will sound (or look) bad so I always try to take a break. Especially with the album I was listening to these songs so many times alone, taking frequent breaks helped keep everything sounding fresh.
KWAV: Two of our favorite tracks from the new album are “Paranoid” and “No Plans.” The slow, meticulous layering of sound in both of these are stunning. Can you tell us the inspiration behind either (or both)?
ES: Thanks! “Paranoid” was actually the very first song I did for the album. I recorded it shortly after finishing my previous EP and was really happy with it which ultimately inspired me to do a whole album. I remember wanting to expand on the Levitate EP with even tighter grooves to complement all of the dreamy layers. I used that song to set the mood for the rest of the songs. I love “No Plans” because I took these drum parts from a song that I ended up scrapping and put them to a bass line I had just written and it fit perfectly. I remember I was listening to a lot of Chromatics when I initially recorded those drum parts a couple years ago so I like that they are a little dancy but still fit the way the rest of the album sounds.
KWAV: Your album is being released on cassette via Spirit Goth Records. In your opinion, what makes the cassette different from other physical formats? What does it offer the music that the digital format doesn’t?
ES: I think from an artist perspective, it’s a cool and sustainable way to release physical material consistently. It also helps that a lot of music in the genre sounds amazing on tape. It’s been my favorite way to listen back to all of my previous releases so far and I can’t wait to hear how this album sounds on it. Similar to vinyl there’s a collectible aspect too which gives it an upper edge over simply owning a digital copy.
KWAV: Finally, what are you listening to right now? Any recommendations?
ES: The new album by Yot Club is excellent, I’ve had that one on repeat. Highly recommend “unexplainable” off that one. I’ve also been listening to the latest Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever album a lot, always loving their sound. Some other artists I’m digging: Valley Palace, Dehd, Sea Lemon, Jaguar Sun, Cathedral Bells, Layzi, Swiss Portrait.
Nowhere is out now via Spirit Goth Records. Order a cassette by joining Spirit Goth’s Cassette Club here.
photo courtesy of artist