karen vogt

Karen Vogt is an Australian artist, vocalist and musician based in France.
She uses her voice to create atmospheric, ambient and experimental compositions. She is mostly known for her distinctive vocals with dream-pop band Heligoland that she co-founded in 1999, produced by Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins).

Release process

I selected loops, improvisations and pieces I made during my Little Pink Fluffy Clouds sessions that I released in 2022.  I continue the concept and name the clouds by numbers. Much emotion is attached to this material for me as I immersed myself into my creative process and used minimal equipment. My voice was at the centre as I used it to build layers, be playful and experiment. I put my vocals through loopers, a vocal processor, an SP404 and guitar pedals. Experimenting with different ideas, being playful and creating moods is part of my creative process.
Side A is textural loops made only of vocals (although a wine glass does appear on cloud forty-nine).Side B is guitar and vocal pieces with some spoken and experimental pieces. You can hear a jar of sunflower seeds being gently turned upside down on cloud fifty-five. A child's keyboard (Dream Dazzler that I found on the street) also makes an appearance, and I used this on a couple of songs and ran it through an SP404. These are cherished pieces I made during that time and had maybe hoped to grow and develop one day, but time has moved quickly since then and they got left behind. This is a nice moment to share it as the sonic diary it has become for me.

1. cloud forty–three
A vocal only improvisation loop where I sing in higher tones and loop it to build some layers. Each sound is captured as I loop and there is the sound of some nose breathing. I love hearing how the layers build up and bring an intensity that starts to feel uneasy toward the end.

2. cloud forty-four
These vocals are slightly out of sync and it creates a wobbly and woozy effect that is further emphasized when I introduce a lower vocal. I like using my voice in this way as an instrument.

3. cloud forty-five
I am using my Boss VE20 pedal here and am using the 5 voice harmony effect and running it through an SP404. I eventually slow it down and pitch shift it.

4. cloud forty-six
This piece always felt like I was in the middle of a swarm of insects. I captured some really interesting tones and textures just by layering and processing a vocal and re-processing it as I passed it back and forth from looper to looper.

5. cloud forty-seven
This was a vocal loop I made and then captured it on another looper while manipulating it with the volume knob. I was also changing the EQ live as I was feeding it through an SP404.

6. cloud forty-eight
I made this vocal loop and then began changing the EQ live. I sang an extra part over the end (that now reminds me of a trumpet tone used in a western movie). I love abstract pieces that are unusual and made just with vocals.

7. cloud forty-nine
This sound is a wine glass being rubbed and then me attempting to sing with it. But it went somewhere else as I left the wine glass sound behind and followed where the vocals were going. These vocals appear in another track on side B. I am fiddling about and it cuts out at one moment.

8. cloud fifty
I love the word cat. I love saying it and I love how it makes me feel. I love cats. So I repeated the word and looped it. My sweet cat Luis who appears on the cover of this album passed too soon a year ago now. He would often be around when I made music and sit with me. In the photo he is sitting in my chair. Oh, I miss that sight. This one is for him. Cats rule!

9. cloud fifty-one
This track is a kids keyboard called the Dream Dazzler that I found abandoned on the street. It was broken, but still worked (after a thorough clean up!) I looped it and spoke the words “stay” and “wait” over the top. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to use, so I am alternating between them. Experimenting with indecision, knowing that it sounds a bit weird, but continuing anyway.

10. cloud fifty-two
I was playing the Dream Dazzler keyboard on the string setting and running through the SP404 with a similar EQ setting as the previous song. Singing words over the top with effects coming through the Boss VE20 pedal - mostly delay. This feels maybe the most formed as a song goes. The vocal I used again in cloud forty-nine.

11. cloud fifty-three
Singing random oohs and aahs is part of my process when I am forming a melody. Drifting with the vowels until settling on something. I cycle through sounds sometimes to get different variations. I am playing guitar here and looping a melody underneath it. Lots of electrical noise and clicks from the looper, but I like these comforting sounds of movement and equipment being touched.

12. cloud fifty-four
This vocal is ascending and I am playing some ascending notes on the guitar through the line 6 M5 pedal. Ascension!

13. cloud fifty-five
This sound is the shaking of a jar of sunflower sounds I recorded. I liked the soft rattle sounds of the seeds landing against the glass. I ran it through reverb on the SP404 and then looped some low sung vocal notes and chanted “needing air” over the top and added layers of harmonies. I think it was summer and very stuffy in the room!

14. cloud fifty-six
I love just noodling on the guitar and then looping things with the volume down so you have no idea what it sounds like until you turn the volume up and hear the layers. This is what I did here, and added some vocal loops to it also.

15. cloud fifty-seven
Delay is my favourite effect and I am playing around with it on the vocals as I sing the word “bae”. I am again playing the Dream dazzler keyboard and looping that on the SP404. I messed about with some effects on the vocal and I sneezed about ¾ of the way through, but didn’t realised I had caught it until I listened back later.

Studio tour

Process: 6 questions.

What is your favorite time of the day in the studio?

Late evening to early morning - 10pm to 3am. Most people are sleeping or preparing for bed and there is a sense of entering a dream state. I love that singular, solitary depth that you can get lost in at night. Mystery is amplified and it correlates with exploring inner worlds. I can naturally go to a deeper creative place during that time window.

Can you name one piece of gear essential to your process?

My looper pedal is a constant source of inspiration and I use it in most of my solo music. It is actually a guitar looper (Digitech Jamman stereo looper - no longer made) but it is wonderful to use on it’s own and put either vocals or guitar through it to make multi-layered loops. I did a Bandcamp Livestream recently to show how I use the looper and a microphone to make my music. I will do more in future to share my creative process with others.

Do you have a track composition routine?

I tend to be very mood based as I work and so it’s often unpredictable. I can perfectly explain the process after I have made the track or the album, but at the time I am just following my instincts until I find something that feels and sounds right. I often don’t know the next step until I am doing it. I just know that there is something there that I need to explore and I follow the trail. There is usually some improvisation, then some chopping up and re-assembling of parts as I get the structure in place and then I will focus on certain sound qualities or textures. One thing I always do when I am working on a track is to listen to the evolving mixes when I go for my daily walk along the river. Taking the track out of the studio and listening to it outside on my walk gives me a different perspective. I often have lots of realisations and good ideas when I do this.

Any imposter syndrom?

I think when I was younger I felt this very much. I was incredibly shy and I felt unworthy of any compliment about anything I did. It took me a long time to accept a compliment and say thank you. I would often laugh and feel embarrassed, or assume the person complimenting me was either deluded or just wanted something from me. Compliments can throw me off and I have a complicated relationship with them that ties into imposter syndrome feelings. The most treasured compliments are ones that are usually said just once, in person, quietly and without expectations or agenda. Equally, it’s the way we feel about ourselves and talk about our work that is important. Imposter syndrome can rip away all the good feelings about your work and so I try not to get too excited or build anything up too much and then my inner critic can’t really tear it down too much. Simply saying “I did something today” can feel satisfying and true and imposter syndrome can’t take that simple fact away from you.

Favorite book?

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a book I often return to because it keeps me on track. It is aimed at creatives and it doesn’t matter if you’re a painter, a designer, a writer, a potter or a dancer. The information is relevant for anyone making any art or working on a creative project. This book helps to get clear, focused and just get on with it and do the creative work.  I want to include a second book in here too. World music artist Sheila Chandra wrote a book called “Organizing For Creative People” that proposes that you can have the wildest, messiest creative process, but still be organised. There is lots of good info on managing time in her book and it helped me to organise my mind and workspace and have some kind of system in place.

What's inspiring you right now?

I am easily inspired by many things and it doesn’t take much for me to get an idea or get excited about something. Right now Spring feels so full of possibilities and I feel ideas bubbling through me with each flower I see opening or, sadly, a lone swan I saw a few days ago in the river with a broken wing. Inspiration comes from observing and being engaged with the world around you, and your inner world. I am inspired also by my musician and artist friends and I enjoy chatting about projects we are involved in or working on together.Generally, I try to pay attention when I feel that spark of inspiration ignite because it tells me that there is something I need to explore further.Oh, and I took a slow train the other day to the countryside here in France and it was very inspiring! So many thoughts and so many towns, houses, stories and peoples lives passing by.