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Squalloscope; Photo Credit: Anna Kohlweis
Squalloscope is Anna Kohlweis, who exists as a songwriter, music producer, multimedia artist, illustrator, and singer based in Vienna, Austria. Exoskeletons for Children is her fifth full-length album after Soft Invasions (2012, Seayou Records) and three releases under the Paper Bird moniker.
Exoskeletons for Children emerged over the course of two years, beginning when Kohlweis had temporarily moved back into her childhood home in her thirties. Written and recorded in solitude in provincial Austrian attics and American basements, as well as in parents’ and friends’ houses, the record abides neither borders nor boxes. While drawing inspiration from Kohlweis’ small-town upbringing rife with teenage lonerdom tempered by solitary late nights on the internet, additional inspiration came from interacting with younger listeners who highlighted the importance of music in forming communities through shared experience even when those communities are far-flung geographically.
On Exoskeletons for Children there is little feeling of nostalgia for the small-town life of Anna Kohlweis’s upbringing. Rather there is a strong sense of identification with young people in these spaces. This record is about the bittersweetness of a homecoming as much as it is about the goodness of anger, protest, grieving, moving away, and never looking back.
There is a commanding nonchalance about Squalloscope, who bends and pitches layers of her own vocals to form the instrumental backbone of a record centered around a whole lot of words. Under the lyrics and vocal tracks is a tapestry of field recordings, beats, synths, and guitars that add to the album’s visually rich narrative.
Humor and intimacy have always been front and center in Kohlweis’ lyrics. “Let’s build exoskeletons for children, let them know we got their backs. Let them know we got their noses, let them know we got their pinkies until they crack”, she sings on the album’s title track. Squalloscope has been described as both uplifting and gut-punching and a listener recently proclaimed it felt “as if someone had run over [their] emotions with a cheese grater”. Strange pains seem like an appropriate reaction to this material.
Kohlweis reveals, “First and foremost, I wanted to make a record that would be a friend to someone the way that other people’s records had been friends to me. Maybe that thought started when i was sitting in my childhood attic room recording the material – the same place where I discovered the music that made me feel like it was saving my life in my teens. Or maybe it began when the world started to feel more and more like a terrifying place and I wondered why i had chosen to sit in an attic room by myself to make an album instead of fighting the fear with my friends.”
She continues, “Exoskeletons for Children became a solitary project about solidarity, anger, and healing. I never wrote an album before where I was clearly picturing an audience during the whole creation process. If I briefly did, it was because I was mildly terrified of their judgment. This time around, it was all out of love for the people I feel understood by.”
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