The Allegorist

Anna Jordan - better known as The Allegorist is a musical storyteller creating auditive visions. Known best for her full length album Hybrid Dimension I 2021 promises to be a year full of vivid releases and a new era in the artist's catalogue.

Erica Synths' Eliza Aboltina talked to The Allegorist about overcoming the fear of creating, ideas that have to live in the shadows and her roots in Eastern Europe. The Allegorist transparently shares her journey towards Berlin, music production and finding one's purpose through art.

Feature photo: Anna Jordan Project

- For how long are you here in Berlin and why did you move?

The Allegorist: 10 years ago I moved to Berlin - I was 24. I always knew that I wouldn't live in Hungary forever. There weren’t many opportunities and you can’t really shape your destiny.

- Is that a general thing or specific to music and arts?

The Allegorist: Oh, it was everywhere. I came to start a new life in hope for any kind of opportunity really. Because I was kind of an outsider in Hungary too, I’ve always felt like it doesn't matter where I am. When I moved I didn't have the expectation that I would be able to work with the arts and I had no idea that Berlin is such a musical city. In Hungary ''to go abroad'' at the time usually meant leaving for England, it was the mainstream thing to do - so to say. I have heard stories about how educated people would work in bars forever. I was afraid to get stuck so I thought I am going to first try my luck elsewhere. I had never been in Berlin and hadn't really seen much of the world so I didn't know what to expect but it felt like if I don't do it now, I won't do it ever. I tried to prepare for the move but in a country, where minimum wage in 2010 was around 240 EUR gross a month, I ended up coming by train, with 20 euros only. The fact that I could come with a train was a big plus because I could carry as much as I could with me, and from all the things that I could've brought I chose a microphone and a guitar that I could not play. Without knowing about it back then, they have symbolised my dreams, reminded to never get lost in the fog and where I’m going.

- Did you know anyone here in Berlin?

The Allegorist: No! Can you imagine! In addition I spoke only a little German and no English (laughing - ed.). I couldn’t do it now. But it’s a good example of how far people will go if they have to and for the hope of a better future. I think everyone should have the right to fight for it and be able to live a safe and independent life. It was worth it.

The Allegorist credit AnnaJordanProject 2.jpg

- How did you manage?

The Allegorist: I was struggling at the beginning. Although I have a diploma in business from a great Hungarian University, in Germany I couldn’t get a decent job, for some reason the diploma was seen as worthless. So I took on any job I could get, like working in „Spätis“ - (late night kiosks in Germany - ed.) The financial disadvantage was partially the reason why it took so long to start out with music. One needs at least a laptop or one piece of gear.

The other reason was that I first had to overcome my suppressed emotions and the angst to do what I was afraid of the most, something that in fact was what I really wanted to do all along - music. Metaphorically speaking my track Dragon Rider is about that journey,. How I tamed the dragon who would became my greatest ally and friend, how we would take on a journey where we would cross and discover lands and oceans, flying together over steppes and mountains we couldn’t even imagine.

I just had so much respect for music and thought it was some sort of god. I didn’t think of myself being special enough to touch that indescribable and wonderful power.

Art was always the biggest inspiration in my life. Because of the limited resources available to me my roots are in visual arts. It’s relatively easy to start drawing or painting, all you need is a paper and pen, it costs nothing. At one point, before I came to Berlin I had a painting atelier in Budapest for two years, that was wonderful. I was this crazy person who would just paint and constantly engage in projects, whenever I had free time. For this reason people from the Budapest art community started to call me ''Anna Jordan Project'', the name I still use as moniker for the visual arts I create. I continued to paint in Berlin in my atelier at the Funkhaus Berlin, supported by an art foundation, but stopped because it became too big for me to handle. There were times when I had to choose between keeping a living space or a storage room for hundreds of paintings I had created in 10 years. Later I moved to digital visual arts before I shifted to music.

Fine arts usually work with media that require a much slower process, have more traditional structures and for that I’m just moving too fast. So I think on a subconscious level I was actually very focused, always pursuing my artistic vision, and that supported me with the energy I needed.

- How did your path in music begin?

The Allegorist: When I was 29, I got fired from my accountant job and I thought I’ve tried long enough to integrate, satisfy society’s expectations and instead of looking for another steady job, I decided to finally start to live the life of my choice. A year before that I had moved into my first long-term apartment from which I couldn’t get kicked out so easily, so in some ways I had managed to settle down. I thought I could take the risk. I have had the same strong feeling before, like when I moved to Berlin - now or never.

I felt like my life was so meaningless without art and in the end it wasn’t even worth to give the arts up, because a more common path wasn’t working out for me either.

Although I made this decision to follow my inner voice, I had gotten so dried out, tired and empty over the years that I couldn’t remember what it was that I really wanted to do. So I decided to set up a big canvas that was still lingering in a corner, and just paint as long as necessary to find the „new me“, as a therapeutic process. For two weeks I immersed in a soul searching process. I just couldn’t continue at one point, made a break and caught the sight of my white guitar in the corner, which I still haven’t really played yet but diligently carried everywhere. Finally it fulfilled its purpose and I knew then, that now I would do anything necessary to at least try.

The birds on the cover of my first album are from the last painting that I created in those two weeks, symbolising how I set both myself and the ideas that came through that free.

- What came next? Perhaps on a more practical level.

The Allegorist: I didn’t have a classic education in arts or music, wasn’t part of any creative community. In fact I didn’t even know a single person doing music. I felt very alone and had no idea how to start. Like standing in an empty desert. Me, a 30 year old woman from Eastern-Europe with limited resources has serious intentions to start creating music from literally zero... Ridiculous! On the other hand why not, who’s gonna stop me?

I approached the start in a very pragmatical way. What I learned by then was that I wanted to be in full control and be able to form my artistic vision myself. So as far as I understood -what I wanted to was to become an electronic music producer.

First my main goal was to gather as much knowledge as possible, with the least investment. I decided to invest in a computer as that’s a tool with which you can do absolutely everything from the beginning to the end. It’s like magic. Record, compose, arrange, program your own tools, mix and master, edit images, animate videos, you name it! I added Ableton, a pair of Yamaha monitors, a MIDI keyboard. I’ve always wanted to be really skilled in one thing, something that was mine only and this was it. I was on fire!

I spent 18 hours a day watching tutorials, reading articles, experimenting in Ableton, with the guitar, my voice and free plugins, learning as much as I could and I was shaking out of excitement the whole time. I’ve learned everything - from basic to advanced from Youtube, other social media and the internet. Later I added more and more tools to my setup, while still keeping a kind of minimalistic approach.

The Allegorist Studio.jpg

The Allegorist's personal archive

- It takes a lot of dedication to learn.

The Allegorist: Yes, but for me it didn't feel like it. I had been waiting for three decades to do this!

- How has your experience been being a female musician in a male dominated scene & industry ?

The Allegorist: At the beginning, which is a key part of any path, I experienced bullying and discrimination in all kind of forms, but as I was growing and met the right people on the way it became less and less common. Through music I’ve made wonderful friendships and received amazing support from all kind of people. Also I’d like to add that growing up and living as a woman isn’t easy in general either - unfortunately.

At one point being a music producer actually helped me a lot to develop a resilience against sexism also on a personal level. As a music producer, which is associated with something ''cool'', I was able to become a person of whom traditional expectations didn’t apply the same way anymore.

Also living the lifestyle of an artist gave me the opportunity to not have to adapt to the common standards. I could also level up the importance of this topic on my own priority list - being an artist firstly means to be truthful to yourself, as I see it, so in a way it became my duty to transform to my core self.

I’m much looking forward for a time where diversity will be the new norm and we will look at this current time, where discrimination in all kind of forms is condoned and can be exercised all over the world, with disgust. As I said earlier balance is the key for everything and we need absolutely everyone's involvement in all aspects of life. And this is something my art stands for too.

- What was your interest in music when it comes to aesthetics, genre…

The Allegorist: I grew up disconnected from the world. I didn't have many opportunities to listen to music until I was 18. After, I’ve been a music listener in a common way, without sophisticated listening skills and haven’t had a specific preference in genre. Now I think it was great to have experienced connecting to music on a very personal level as an adult first, which wouldn’t be available to me as a music producer. I used to be ashamed of my unpolished knowledge about music but now I see it as an opportunity, because it is also the reason why I could approach music freely, without bias and appreciate it on a wider scale.

- How did you shape your own sound then ?

The Allegorist: I think shaping my own aesthetics happened long before I started to work with sound. I have worked as an artist on many different media before and started to make music at a mature age. Early on I constantly contemplated the question what is art and what makes an artistic vision strong enough to be worth pursuing as one's life purpose.

For instance, I engaged in questions like how far one needs to go back to the source, in tools and materials in order to create something new. In my painting process I went as far as to saw wooden boards, nail my frames together, cook my own paint - the traditional way of painting up to the point where it felt like I am not doing art anymore but manufacturing work only. It helped a lot that I was prepared on a philosophical level when I crossed similar topics in sound.

On the other hand to work with sound was completely new and my sound is still constantly developing. To begin my process in Ableton was a great choice because in a digital workspace, theoretically, anything is possible. That gave me a lot of space and creative freedom. Along the way as my skill set is expanding and I’m growing both as a person and an artist, executing ideas becomes easier. Though the foundation of my artistic vision has stayed the same.

So far I’ve done all the visuals for The Allegorist myself, including artworks, music videos and my press photos, as well as writing little stories for my releases to bring context and narrative. These elements and ideas of other media are constantly helping to shape and support my sound.

The Allegorist credit AnnaJordanProject 4.jpg

Anna Jordan Project

- How did you publish your music?

The Allegorist: The first years I devoted my time to learning and creating only. I wasn’t aware of anything that was happening in the music industry and all the different kinds of music scenes. I didn’t think about my tracks as products, about my project as a brand or the fact that releasing material in public instantly starts to shape an image. My approach to music was limited to a purely artistic vision.

The release of my first album Botanical Utopia was a coincidence. Uploading a few tracks to Soundcloud somehow resulted in them finding their way to a small greek label, Kraak Records. Botanical Utopia is the result of my very first year in creating music. It was a small, an almost invisible release, but I’m very grateful for the support of Angelos, who put his faith in me at a very early stage.

The second album Hybrid Dimension I. was released on Detroit Underground. I sent a demo to the email address I had found online - to Kero, who is very supportive in regards of releasing unknown artists. Both releases gave me the sense of validation as an artist in a sensitive time and it meant a lot.

- When did you start to perform live?

The Allegorist: In October 2018 I was asked if I wanted to play live in the club Suicide Circus, 3 weeks before the event. Until then I hadn’t really thought about performing live because I wasn’t sure if I was ready. But of course I said yes and put together my first live set. It is quite funny to think about it now, how I couldn’t imagine that my sound could become so loud that it fills a club. I asked for a soundcheck a week before my show just to make sure it could be as loud and it was incredible to hear my music on that volume. It felt like it was the moment when I officially came out as an artist.

Then I continued to get bookings with the same phrase Can you play something like the Dragon Rider? - which was my only track with a resemblance of techno aesthetic. To be honest, every single time I was shocked but also very happy about the unexpected and genuine interest. And every single time I played a live show, I played a new set. So for a whole year, playing every month around 13 sets in 2019 altogether, I killed every single one and built it from the beginning. The arrangement is always very important to me.

This is how I developed my current techno set.

My last 2 shows were streamed live, one at United We Stream x ARTE concert x Amplify Berlin and at Lumin Essence.

(In April 2020 The Allegorist was booked to play KONTAKTOR showcase in OHM Berlin, as a part of Superbooth, however the show was cancelled because of the global pandemic- ed.)

- Do you feel that a club is the environment in which you want to play?

The Allegorist: So far I’ve played only in clubs and I’ve really enjoyed it. I had to learn how to build a set where I can communicate with the audience on a very direct level. I really enjoyed experimenting but it did take a lot of work. A lot of my music doesn’t fit in a club setting. Therefore I’m very open to present it live in news ways.

- What's your own relationship with dance music?

The Allegorist: Going out never appealed to me in Hungary, therefore I never did it. When I came to Berlin I discovered both electronic music and clubbing. As someone who came to Berlin to start a new life, first I destroyed myself to ashes. When I came with nothing, it felt like I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t go back and couldn’t just continue either. I thought I have discovered the new meaning of life by letting all go.

Until then I’ve had to stick to strict ways of living. The first year in Berlin I did the very opposite. With the experience of losing total control over myself, hidden layers of my personality surfaced and old structures got demolished. This happened on a deep psychological level, to which we consciously don’t necessarily have access to. Raving can be a ritual.

- Something I notice in your sound while still subtle and unconventional is ethnic references.

The Allegorist: I’m very glad that you have noticed that, as it is a big part of the ideology The Allegorist is standing for. To represent humanity as one, even though we are all different but also very similar at the same time.

This is partly the reason why I’ve started to sing in a fictional language. To avoid choosing a specific language and with it one cultural reference.

The other reason is, that whenever I start to make vocal sounds I can never find the exact words to speak. The muttering of faraway and cryptic words come naturally to me. I’m baffled to realise, that whenever I try to alter them, because I think they sound silly, how I cannot. Because if I would do so, I would no longer express those initial thoughts and emotions but rather pass on a completely different meaning.

I’ve been thinking how I could call this language and decided to go with „Mondoneoh“.

The name is broken up into three parts. The first is 'MONDO', which is a collection of dialogues between a pupil and a Zen Buddhist teacher, designed to obtain an intuitive truth. The purpose of 'NEO' is to update values for the 21st Century, which transcends the hierarchical, gender-biased, outdated aspects of traditions to one community of equality, diversity and inclusion. The letter 'H' at the end symbolizes the bridge between past and future, us and them, and the balance of darkness and light, yin and yang, the micro and macro, nothing and everything.

What you meant with the previous questions was the vocals, right?

- Yes, but not exclusively. I've tried to understand if I can decipher a particular geographical point of reference but it seems that is not really the case...

The Allegorist: I am glad you see it that way.

People ask me what kind of music I do, and what can I say? Experimental electronic music. I don't know. Techno influenced. Ambient influenced. Sometimes cinematic.

The Allegorist's stage appearances are always centred around her live shows, thereof mix tapes are a rare occurrence in artist's oeuvre. As presented in the latest Kicks&Hugs Terra Sonus podcast series that invite artists to present their favourite place on earth with the help of sound, she demonstrates a magnificent story telling ability also when asked to select music rather than create it -ed.

The Allegorist credit AnnaJordanProject 1.jpg

- It also feels like the sound design aspect is of big importance to you.

The Allegorist: Absolutely, yes! My production does not fit a certain genre with a similar setup of tracks or a golden rule for arranging them. I approach every track as something absolutely new and therefore the method is always different. So for example templates don’t work for me. Though this kind of workflow is very time consuming.

In this process I always put the story first and build everything around it. The concept of a track can be born from an idea, field recording or even as an image first.

In the creative process I often have a conflict with myself.

On one side is the pure auditive perspective from the point of view as a sound designer or mixing engineer and on the other side is the artist and the vision.

Of course the best is if both aspects align with each other, but that is not always the case. A good example of this is a track from my upcoming album „Disillusion Echoes“. I recorded the vocal first - filled with the emotion of disappointment. Later I sang it in a nicer manner. Which one are you gonna use? The pushy almost irritating one, but the one rich in content or the one which has a pleasing sound but beside that sort of meaningless? In this case, the artist was the one winning the argument, leaving the sound designer secondary.

See, I have no desire to create beautiful vocals in the common sense. But with most of the other production elements if I consider something simply lacking of quality, I would re-record as many times as needed or spend hours editing a loop of few seconds in order to achieve the best sounding result. What supports the narrative the best can sometimes be overly polished sounds, sometimes textures destroyed beyond recognition and sometimes just untouched recordings.

- How does your production process work?

The Allegorist: That is a very good question and there is a long answer to it.

I love to read, to think and observe. I consume a lot of information in many fields and collect ideas in many forms such as images, fragments of texts, sometimes even tweets or just words. I have a well organised folder on my hard drive dedicated to it.

Stories are everywhere. When I walk on the street and look into people’s faces I ask myself, where are they going, what could be behind a sad or happy look? Or I see a bag carried by the wind and ask myself, could it be that once it carried a present? I could spin my thoughts like this all day. The aftermath is my own experiences on top of those stories.

There are days when I’m only recording sounds and vocals or creating melodies and beats with my machines. I can always access pre-prepared material if I need to. On other days I experiment a lot, try out new tools or play around with ideas. On very lucky days I can pick up the thread and follow it until the end. Those are the days when I forget to eat and to sleep.

There are some ideas I can neither finish nor forget. They aren’t ripe enough for me to pick them from the apple tree. I’ve understood that there is an output which is not linear. Some ideas stay in the shadows before they finally appear at a later time, ready to then become a full track.

In the times when I lack strong ideas, I take an instrument and record material that belongs to my world of ideas but is not saying something in particular. Sometimes I produce samples or record vocals for days - I have vocal ideas but I don't know where to put them. Sometimes I make pleasing sounds, it can be easy to create a melody, a bass. But then I wonder, what is the meaning, where is this going? It can sound nice but it feels empty. It's so easy to achieve a melancholic feeling, but if I feel it's lacking in the message then I won't make a track out of it. It's not worth it. I feel like we have so much nice music, I do not need to create more. It’s just not what I’m trying to do.

- Do you enter a different persona when you create for The Allegorist?

The Allegorist: Not really. The Allegorist is more like an ideology with a holistic approach, which I’m trying to grow into. The Allegorist isn’t really a persona herself, but a creator of characters and stories. An approach which perhaps suits a writer more than a musician. Now whenever I feel weak as Anna, I draw strength from The Allegorist, as I think it to be somewhat bigger than myself.-

- With the narrative always in focus, it feels like the project initially is more intellectual than purely focusing on the sound aesthetics.

The Allegorist: I think so but I myself wasn’t aware of this until recently.

I chose the name „The Allegorist“ after a half a year of contemplation. I was looking for something timeless, gender neutral and inclusive, a name that wouldn’t set limitations. As a child I was fascinated by the concept of allegories and metaphors in literature. How telling something through symbols or a story could reach deeper layers of understanding and thus a better definition of whatever it is.

- You mentioned you have a lot to be released this year, could you tease what to expect?

The Allegorist: I'm so behind with my releases! Giving continuity to the galactic journey of the Hybrid Dimensions, following the main character of the story, I’m finally going to release the second album Hybrid Dimension II. this year on Awaken Chronicles. (pre orders open from March 12th, the album is scheduled for release on May 7th - ed.)

Later this year I’m going to release another album on the record label Burning Witches and there are some other surprises in-line.

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