Luwten Unravels The Meaning Behind Abstract Single “Airport”

Like Modern Art, experimental music can leave you either with a sense of marvel or frustration.  You either can tap into its essence and uncover its spirited whimsy or it threatens your sense of order and irritates you with its impenetrability. The music of Dutch artist Luwten,  a.k.a. Tessa Douwstra, exists in that dichotomy and her new song “Airport” is the perfect object lesson for this reality.

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Minimal, obtuse and angular, “Airport,” initially manifests itself as an otherworldly and icy track that’s cold to the touch with Douwstra’s vocals vacillating between upper and lower registers against an orchestral backdrop of distorted and eerie beats. It’s trip hop with trap underpinnings (traphop?) creating an unsettling and alienating dimension. Once you allow it to settle in, its moody texture permeates and penetrates, unraveling into a gorgeous and but still icy orchestral abstraction.

While the sonic affront mirrors the arching detached theme of a relationship at crossroads (set in its namesake airport), the quiet anguish of the lyrics begs the question “Do you stay and figure things out or do you board a plane and start anew?”

“The airport feels like this strange grey area to me,” Douwstra, says, lifting a layer off of the symbolism embedded in the song. “You have left home, you haven’t arrived at your final destination yet but you have to stay in this one place for a while.”

A contrast to this song’s companion single “Control” (which was released last month) which tries to regain a sense of direction (“nothing seems to stick / I think I’m losing it”), “Airport” exhibits a more passive sense of defeat… one that signals desperation, as if she has already lost. 

“I can’t see what’s left of me / It’s just blue and it’s beyond me,” she sings, revealing the struggle to determine if identity and individuality is more crucial than a debit of independence.  “This no man’s land,” she continues. “This reminded me of the area you may find yourself in before making a difficult decision. How to let go of expectations you might have for yourself or others? Are you going to get on that plane together or not? How to think about these things? How to choose?”

 “This is one of the key tracks on the EP for me sonically… the airport being the metaphorical crossroad of a relationship,” she explains. “Are you going to get on that plane or not? It’s about letting go and ultimately treasuring all that was so wonderful about it.”

For Douwstra, real life doesn’t have to be so complicated as an airport metaphor of transitions and life choices. Its meaning can be even more elementary. “I don’t necessarily think that every image should be fast-paced or explain itself,” she replies. “I like a simple image. I started working on this video together with director Charlene van Kasteren (who also did the video for ‘Control’) and we decided we wanted the videos to be like a painting.”

Like the sparse but abstract nature of “Airport” with its minimal, icy and somewhat impenetrable musical coda, the meaning of her lyrics can be uncluttered but yet open to interpretation… with each individual understanding their own truth, much like modern art. “What I like about being in a museum is that it’s all about your own experience,” she echoes. “You look at a painting… and the longer you look at it, the more you see. I like a visual or a song that slowly unfolds itself, giving the viewer or listener the space to think and feel for themselves.”

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