CSAAR: ‘I’m so into it – This is exactly my thing’

Soft spoken and low-key, Caroly Saar sits with her soy latte in a local coffee shop describing the perils and successes of her first ever live gig. While the native Estonian is shy about her English vocabulary, her confidence shines through as she begins speaking about electronic music.

Well versed in both the equipment and innovators of her scene, it’s no wonder she’s studying Digital Music at Southampton Solent University. Releasing tracks under the name CSAAR, she aims to dominate the electronic scene with a simple laptop and little equipment.

‘Hidden Love’ began as one of Saar’s Uni projects, but the song quickly drew attention and now has over 5,000 plays on SoundCloud. The soft but powerful track is the first to feature Saar’s own vocals, reverbed and sampled, to create something quite hauntingly beautiful. Not only did she receive great feedback from family and friends, but the song was also praised live at last year’s SMILEfest Demo Surgery panel by a group of industry professionals.

Saar performed live for the first time at the Invisible Movement Arts Festival 2016 (part of SMILEfest 2016) at Lankester’s Vault in Southampton , accompanied only by her equipment: a laptop, Ableton Live, a pad table, and an old Roland sampler she uses to mess with her vocals. She recalls the smoke machine impairing her vision and having difficulty hearing her voice in the speakers, but while nervous and still describing the experience as intimidating, she received great feedback from the show. “The venue was absolutely stunning and the organizers were amazing and the other artists were like ‘wow’,” she states. “It was an honour to play there and a good experience.”

Saar is eager to play more gigs and build up her live skillset. She will be playing in late March/April at the same venue, Lankester’s Vault, during Campaign For Quiet’s Castle Vault Series and will also be playing The Art House during the third week of May.

A three-track concept EP currently in the works for this spring, focused on Saar’s experiences with nightmares and sleep paralysis. She explains, “I have really crazy dreams, and when I wake up I always 100% remember them. Usually they are like sleep paralysis, when you know you’re sleeping but your mind is awake and you can’t move and you can’t speak. It feels so real but you’re actually sleeping, yet aware of what is going on.”

Due to the lack of information about sleep paralysis on the Internet, Saar thought it would be interesting to make music out of it. She’s aiming to make it a really dark record with disturbing sounds that’s uncomfortable to listen to. She also wants to use her own vocals again to make it sound haunted and ghostly.

When creating a new song, Saar explains that she always starts with the beat to set the mood. After that she starts experimenting, never aiming for a specific genre, but attempting to find sounds that work well together. Lyrics and vocals are always the last things she adds, in part due to her still growing English vocabulary that can make lyric writing difficult. While she’s fluent in English as well as Estonian, French, and partly Russian, she’s only writing songs in English for the time being. She also comments that she would love to collaborate with other musicians in the future, but for now she’ll continue as a solo act.

Saar’s interest in electronic music began very young. She started playing classical piano at the age of five and received her first CD, Moby’s Play, when she was eight. The record by the American electronic artist quickly grew to be her favourite and she recalls playing it on repeat over and over. From there, Saar explains, “I got the idea that I wanted to do the same as Moby. He makes his albums all by himself – the trumpets, the keyboards, the vocals, and the electronic stuff – so I just started doing research on how he does it and what programmes he uses. I downloaded the programmes and then started saving money to buy MIDI keyboards and other electronic MIDI equipment.”

Besides Moby, Saar is influenced by many other electronic artists and goes to London (or another city) every month to see a performance. She lights up as she describes seeing Canadian singer songwriter Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, in London recently. “That was amazing,” she comments. “It was the best show I have ever seen. She is one of my biggest inspirations.”

Coming from Estonia, Saar explains that the music scene is not very large, as the country itself is made up of only 1.3 million people. She only knows two or three female electronic artists that are native to the country. While she aims to make it big in London, she states, “I’ve got the backup plan if things are not going the way I want them to in England, and that’s to go back to Estonia and start doing things there. It’s much easier to share your music there, get into the newspapers, and find shows because it’s so small. It’s much harder in England, especially in London, where I want to go but I’ll give it a try.”

Saar comments, “I really hope in the future I can make music and travel the world and see a different country every day.” As she clearly has the talent and dedication to her passion, that hope seems to have a very good chance of becoming daily reality.

Words by Kaitlyn Ulrich