Nora En Pure
Photo: Courtesy of artist
How Nora En Pure Brings The Natural World Into Dance Music
“I have no idea what they mean,” she tells GRAMMY.com, “but it always feels good.” Dreams are widely open to interpretation, of which the Dream Dictionary has many regarding whales. They supposedly symbolize introspection, and swimming with them, specifically, is a positive omen suggesting that one is “ready to explore the vast parts of the unknown.”
Exploring is something at which Nora En Pure is a real-life expert. As a DJ and producer, she has been traveling the world for nearly a decade since breaking through in 2013 with her single “Come With Me.” Since then, she has launched her own weekly radio show on SiriusXM Chill, “Purified,” along with an events brand and record label of the same name.
An avid photographer, her Instagram is filled with idyllic, wish-you-were-here pictures from abroad, and her music, which melds machine-made electronic beats with melodic sounds and live instrumentation like piano and strings, inspires its own wanderlust. Whether she’s performing oceanside at San Diego’s CRSSD Festival, among Delaware’s woodlands at Firefly Festival or at the foot of snowy Swiss mountains, Nora En Pure amplifies through sound nature’s vast divinity.
Eventually, even the world’s most beautiful vistas can make up for only so much of the touring lifestyle’s less-ideal aspects. In December 2019, Nora En Pure announced she would be cutting down on gigs in 2020 in order to focus on her music, label and self. A few months later, COVID-19 stopped touring and normal life altogether, giving everyone ample time to self-reflect and figure out who they are. In Nora En Pure’s case, that’s a highly productive person. Since June, she has put out eight new releases and celebrated the 200th edition of her “Purified” show with a live-streamed performance.
On April 16, Nora En Pure released her latest EP, Thermal/Oblivion, a dynamic show of contrast for which she also worked on her first NFT. Ahead of its release, Nora En Pure spoke with GRAMMY.com over email about the EP, taking inspiration from nature and what life looks like for her post-lockdown. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll finally get to swim with the whales.
In late 2019, you shared your intention to cut back on touring to focus on your music and catch your breath. How has the last year in lockdown affected your workflow?
I’ve definitely caught my breath by now, yeah. It came at the right time, though. I needed a bit of a break and enjoyed just staying in one place, feeling healthy and rested, and focusing more on the music again. It allowed much more musical output compared to when I was touring, and obviously time with family and friends that I usually don't get to see very much.
By now I'm really ready for things to change again. The restrictions to social life, travel and general freedom takes a toll over such a long time, especially considering that electronic music is strongly connected to and often made for crowds to enjoy, and you never experience that while working on it. This whole time I was really busy keeping myself engaged with my own music, streams, label and music videos. In that way, I think I had quite a creative year and really used all the extra time we were given.
What can you tell us about the Thermal/Oblivion EP? Both tracks seem to present a vivid contrast in the imagery they evoke.
Yes, “Thermal” is very emotional, melancholic and almost bittersweet. It's really calm, so more for the listener at home, while “Oblivion” is definitely intended for the club.
I think it's an exciting space with the potential to change the art and music world. If that happens in the long term, we will see, but I definitely feel like exploring it, and it also gives followers/fans/collectors a new way to connect.
Given that I always have certain sceneries in my mind when working on a track, it was really appealing for me to work on a visual counterpart. For me, anything in the visual area is at least as interesting as audio, so I get very hooked on that creative process and it's important for me to pursue a certain artistic line visually as well.
In this first drop, we have the most intriguing section of “Oblivion,” where all the energy builds and gets released through the main drop. The scenery is about us connecting with all living things on this planet and reacting and sharing the energy through the power of music. Music is such a force that helps us through the darkest and toughest times, so I wanted to reflect on that and show we are one with earth, and that music has a strong impact on us all.
You’ve performed in some very idyllic settings over the past year, such as Croatia’s Brac Island and Gstaad in your home country, Switzerland. If you could perform outdoors anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Off the top of my head, I would say Hawaii. I love raw nature, the combination of sea and mountains, lush terrains that feel alive. I love when there is motion in it, so I like being close to bodies of water, like streams, waterfalls or the ocean. This is what I feel resonates most with my music and the scenes we record when being out there. That's how I feel when making music: like I’m flying and connecting with nature and the purest form of life.
As a producer and label owner with your own weekly show, what significance has streaming/radio taken on while live events are on pause? Have you changed your approach at all?
We signed more chilled tracks on the label than we would have if clubs were open. I took a similar approach to my own music; however, I always try to keep a good mix of music that is enjoyable at home or by the pool and also a bit more clubbier tracks that are meant for the crowds.
Melodic styles have become more prominent in popular dance music, and digital stores like Beatport have created a section for “organic house.” What about these sounds do you think strikes a chord with audiences, and how do you maintain a balance between live instruments/nature samples and machine-made sounds?
I think the addition of sub-genres is due to the steady increase of interest in electronic music. At first, when you fall in love with electronic music you might be quite open and listen to a wide variety of sounds, and as you grow in it, you develop a more niche taste or might want to explore. So even sub-genres are getting really popular now, which I think is great to give particular sounding artists and labels a better platform.
In my case, I've always tried to connect the two worlds of organic and electronic sounds. Electronic sounds are usually more powerful and can create quite an energy through its pattern, pace and texture; while I usually use organic sounds to give the track its soul, so often they are prominent in the break. Sometimes they also serve more as a decorative element to make you feel part of a certain space or scenery.
You’ve said in past interviews that you didn’t listen to electronic music growing up because you found it too “repetitive.” When did you get into dance music, and what was the first song, if you recall, that made you reconsider that stance?
It was really when I first heard organic instruments mixed with electronic music. I can't recall the song, but back then the more Balearic-sounding tracks inspired me, as well as some artists that combined live violin with it. That changed everything for me, as well as getting a look behind the scenes. Once I started to hang out in studios, I understood the possibilities and how much creative work is actually behind it, and that got me hooked.
Your style of melodic house is innately cinematic, and you’ve mentioned Hans Zimmer when talking about your love of film soundtracks. Since you said one of your career goals is to score a film, what kind of film would that ideally be, and what would your OST sound like?
Ha! That career goal changes according to my confidence. Lately, I imagine it would be really difficult to so perfectly capture and amplify the emotion of a specific moment. However, I think the best genre for me would be dramas, with emotional, melancholic vibes and building tension.
Similarly, you also do photography. How does music inform your photos and vice versa? What’s your favorite photo you’ve taken?
I'm very much into nature and wildlife photography, also portraits. I like clean, elegant compositions, and I really care about framing and good light. I also love to use shallow depth of field. I have to admit, though, that my favorite photos are either the ones I take of my husband on our travels or those that I force him to take of me with my dog.
I have one favorite in particular that we took during a roadtrip in the States some years back. Our puppy joined us and that photo he took at the horseshoe bend perfectly captures what I love most: exploring stunning nature sceneries with my dog. I'm really into all that travel photography but don't have much time anymore for it; I often become the subject as I can use those photos for my social media. But yeah, I'm extremely picky and the right shot might take a while.
Nora En Pure & her dog | Photo: Courtesy of artist
I also read that you’ve had recurring dreams about the ocean and whales since you were young. If dreams have deeper meanings, how would you interpret that?
I wish there were more conclusive studies about dreams. I remember almost everyday what I dream and yes, whales, dolphins, the ocean and really big waves are all frequent, around once a week. I have no idea what they mean, but it always feels good.
It's on my bucket list to dive with whales and encounter them naturally up close in the water if they allow it. It's something I had actually planned to do last year. Hopefully I can make the trip soon. Looking into the eye of a whale in nature, feeling that connection, I think I will cry for a month after that experience. They have a very deep and special meaning to me.
Having spent so much time at home, do you feel the same way about scaling back on touring as you did before 2020?
I think I just need to find a healthy balance. For sure, my travels can be optimized here and there to feel less exhausted and stressed, and make sure social life doesn't come too short.