The world has become terribly monotonous. Everywhere there are unchanging streets and appalling housing. The same tired uniformity exists all around- horribly nauseating and sterile… People have grown dreadfully cruel. There is a chill on kindness. Certainly humanity does not know how to live. It has degenerated terribly, and has sped toward the abyss.
Atem.’s Grey EP evokes a sense of disillusionment, struggle, and isolation in the midst of the deterioration of the world around us.
Musically, he cites Burial as a major influence. This is particularly evident in the dark UK Garage flavour of the rhythms, and the crackle and chill of the title track. He also identifies Nine Inch Nails as the source of inspiration for “Nearly There.”
Atem. weaves in snippets of bittersweet mournful re-pitched R&B vocals from the likes of Diana Ross, and other, more obscure, sources. (He explained to me that his mother was fond of Motown music).
At the heart of this record are washed-out soulful chords and delicate piano melodies, which can be heard on “Plaster,” “Nearly There,” and “Hanna.” (Atem. has been playing the keys since infancy.) The melancholic piano reflects a period of imbalance and frustration experienced by the artist during this records construction. While composing the Grey EP, he moved away from his hometown, ran out of money, went through periods of withdrawal from creativity, and faced the disappointment of a consuming romance that ultimately never got off the ground.
In the German language, “atem” means “breath.” And so, we might interpret his moniker,“Atem.”, to signify the cessation of the breath. As the artist related to me, “the period signifies a stop; hence- stop breathing.”