Em Spel, the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Emma Hospelhorn, releases ‘My Oldest Friend,’ a haunting avant-folk story, today through Carillonia Records. “Come to a tunnel… hello, tunnel… hello,” sings Em Spel, over delicate acoustic guitar and slowly morphing drones. Midway through the song, as the narrator meets the titular oldest friend, the mood shifts from dark to light: complex harmonies and winding flutes grow through like vines around Hospelhorn’s warm vocals. With “Can you save this man? He doesn’t seem to know,” a propulsive drum beat fades in, carrying the tune to its end in a triumphant crescendo.
The track was recorded by frequent collaborator Brian Deck and features performances by Jesse Langen (acoustic guitar) and V.V. Lightbody (electric guitar), with Mabel Kwan adding synths and Eric Ridder adding drums. Emma creates changing drone textures through digital synthesizers and looped and distorted flutes in the beginning of the song, and adds soaring classical flute lines in the second half.
The song went through several iterations before achieving its final form. “I recorded the song last winter, but something about the way I had orchestrated it didn’t sit right with me on repeated listens,” says Hospelhorn. “There was a quality of strangeness that I feel when I perform that was somehow missing from the recording: I was imagining something green and living growing through the song the way moss grows in a tunnel. I took the song home and played around with it for weeks, creating drone textures by passing flute sounds through pedals until they sound almost like guitars, and trying out layer on layer of digital synths. I brought my new layers back to Brian [Deck] and he remixed it in a way that feels exactly right to me: moody, expansive, ever shifting.”