Podcast 664: Sky CivilianPodcast 664: Sky Civilian

Maggie Thornton is an American musician located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her story begins in a small town in Mississippi, where she fostered an interest in classical music by playing horn. Stifled by a competitive urge to become one of the world’s best players, she sought solace in an electronic music community and began making her first beats using a pocket synthesizer she bought with her first pay-check. With a focus on vocal sweetness, compositional simplicity, and rich, layered analog tones, she established a sonic template that eventually caught the attention of Pascal Terstappen, co-founder of Amsterdam’s Atomnation label.

Terstappen first heard from Thornton in 2018. Intent on creating a more complex and coherent body of work, Thornton became Sky Civilian and began working on some new sketches. She delivered five of these to Terstappen, who snapped them up for his label, releasing Open Door, Thornton’s debut label release, in 2019. With an air of softness and warmth, the record straddled techno and house with subtle pop tilt and Thornton’s vocals front and centre. With At the Seams, the album followup, Thornton gave her take on acid-house.

Recorded in February, Thornton’s mix is filled with the gentle, melodic, and vocal-heavy electronica of her production work. By capturing the hope and expectation of a positive 2020, all before the pandemic hit and lockdown began, it serves as a contrast to the tumultuous times of the present day.

01. What have you been up to recently?

Kicking it at home. My partner and I recently moved from a tiny studio in downtown Santa Fe to a more remote place, with awesome desert landscape views. I’m making new music—the change of scenery has subtly shifted my sound already.

02. How has lockdown been for you?

Every day feels kind of unprecedented and past-due, you know? Tensions are high. I am extraordinarily grateful for my health, family, community, and job. Trying to focus on the basics.

03. What have you been listening to?

The new Blue Hawaii mixtape Under 1 House is outstanding. And the new Maria Minerva album, Soft Power. She’s a dream. Tons of Galcher Lustwerk too.

04. What’s your route into electronic music?

My background is in classical music. I’ve always taken on new instruments and styles. I spent years on the dancefloor plotting the day I’d try my hand at producing. Big love to my friends at Mesa Recordings and Make Mistakes for all their encouragement once that day finally came. I’m hooked now.

05. How did you go about connecting to Atomnation?

I made a five-track demo including my tracks “If I Had,” “Let’s Be Easy,” and “Alone,” and sent them to Pascal, with no prior connection. I had sort of zeroed in on Atomnation and sent my demo in as a reach-goal. I had zero followers at the time and knew my sound was raw, so I had few expectations and nothing to lose. That initial demo became the basis for my first EP, Open Door, quickly followed up by my EP At the Seams, both on Atomnation. I am super lucky to work with them.

06. Where and when did you record this mix?

Back in February of this year, at home, before lockdown. I can hear all of the big misconceptions and hopes I had for 2020 buried within it. I love that about it.

07. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?

I wanted to make something fairly lyrical, since vocals are a big part of my sound and are the core driver of my inspiration. So, many of these tracks have words, vocals, and/or melodies that excite me. The tracks without vocals or spoken word usually feature really expressive, almost vocalized synth work.

08. Where do you imagine it being listened to?

Probably at home, on a weekend afternoon. I think it’s a “feel-good” mix with an introspective edge.

09. What’s next on your horizon?

I have a few more releases coming up. It is a mixed bag but I think the exploration is valuable —a remix for the alt-rock band Motopony, another single with Atomnation, a feature on a track for Joris Voorn. And, not to jinx myself, but I am almost ready to get more serious about a debut album. Almost.

10. What are your long-term ambitions with music?

I am looking forward to releasing records that contain a larger statement of my sound. The most evolved version of this project will likely include a healthy mixture of collaborative and solo work. Alongside this, I want to improve as a selector and performer.

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Tracklisting

01. soldout “Just a Night” (Flatcat Recordings)
02. Cimmerii “ET Made Me” (Universe Language Records)
03. Andras “Harf Green” (Beats in Space Records)
04. Pale Blue “A Heart Whose Love Is Innocent” (2MR)
05. Yantar “Somerville & Wilson, Fango” (Fango Remix) (Hell Yeah Recordings)
06. Bella Boo “Is It Rude To Wear My Shades” (Studio Barnhus)
07. Pale Spring “Suffer Soft” (Doom Trip Records)
08. Sky Civilian “Let’s Be Easy” (Atomnation Records)
09. Nina Simone “Feeling Good” (UMG Recordings, Inc.)
10. Tin Man “Acid Distances” (Konstrukt) (NL)
11. Dirty Princess “Sucia for You” (Susurrando)
12. Maya Jane Coles, Nocturnal Sunshine, Peaches “Possessed” (feat. Peaches) (I/AM/ME)
13. Dew Town Mayor, The Micronauts “Ceremonie” (feat. Dew Town Mayor) (Popof Remix) (Micronautics)
14. Murat Tepeli, Prosumer “Give And Take” (Vinyl Version) (Ostgut Ton)
15. Andras “Poppy” (Beats in Space Records)
16. Kornél Kovács “Purple Skies (Studio Barnhaus)
17. Client “Price of Love” (Toast Hawaii)
18. Marlon Hoffstadt “Planet Love” (Marlon Hoffstadt)
19. Cherushii & Maria Minerva “Thin Line” (100% Silk)

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