“This release is my way to start looking ahead, and rejoin the world in a way that helps me feel more hopeful about the future,” says multi-instrumentalist and producer Olé Koretsky.
After taking two years away from the music business, Koretsky is reemerging with MMXX, a five-song EP, to be released this Summer. These post-punk songs, overlaid with a darkwave electronica sheen, are deeply intense, intimate, and often achingly beautiful.
Although this project bears the band name Koretsky, this is almost entirely a one-man project: Olé Koretsky is the main songwriter and producer, and this material is meant to convey his own very personal recent experiences.
Some of the tracks were originally written years ago, and were intended for inclusion on what would have been an album for his alternative rock band Jetlag (his band with Andy Rourke (The Smiths bassist) which later became D.A.R.K. when Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries vocalist) joined the duo.
One of these older songs is the propulsive “Heartbreaker.” As Koretsky recalls, he and O’Riordan – who were partners in life as well as musically – were visiting her hometown of Limerick, Ireland when he was working on it. “I remember Dolores listening to what I’d written and saying, ‘That’s catchy!’ I said, “Thanks, but there’s a problem: it only feels good when I sing in the chorus, ‘Heartbreaker / Why won’t the Lord just take her’ – that’s a little disturbing, isn’t it?’ And she said, “No, don’t worry about it – it’s grand!’” Based on her approval, he kept that phrasing intact – and D.A.R.K. went on to debut the song during their 2017 tour.
Tragically, O’Riordan passed away in January 2018, giving those lyrics an eerily prescient quality. But, as Koretsky says emphatically: “That song was never about her – it was written with her input. I included it on this EP because she really liked it, and it also fits in sonically with the other songs.”
For “Signs of Life,” another older song, Koretsky invited Tina Kristina, a Mexico-based musician he met through Rourke, to step in for the vocals. Her soulful delivery contrasts beautifully with the darkwave-inspired instrumentation.
A second guest vocal appearance, courtesy of Koretsky’s childhood friend Adrian Spoleti, came as something of a surprise. When Koretsky decided to cover the Prince-penned song “Nothing Compares 2U,” so memorably performed to perfection by Sinead O’Connor in 1990, Spoleti claimed he could sing an equally moving version. Incredulous, Koretsky told Spoleti, “Talk is cheap! Sing it for me!” To his astonishment, Spoleti was, in fact, not boasting: his vocal performance on the track is breathtaking.
Two newer compositions, the prickly “Call It a Day” (in which Koretsky describes grappling with despair) and the hauntingly atmospheric opening track “The One” (which he deliberately kept uncluttered, to allow the simple, stunning melody to shine through), both chronicle his unsettled but ultimately indominable spirit during the past two years.
While Koretsky acknowledges that all of these songs have a certain somber quality to them, which is only natural given his grief as he recorded them, he also believes that working on this EP has helped him find hope again. “I feel like allowing these songs to be dark is an appropriate way for me to express myself, and working again has been incredibly helpful for me,” he says.
Aside from the two guest vocalists, and getting some assistance with programming the percussion, Koretsky wrote and performed all of the songs himself while ensconced in his home studio. This deeply personal project is, he feels, a fitting culmination of everything he has learned over the years about songwriting and producing.
Koretsky started writing songs when he was 13 years old, but his music business career didn’t begin in earnest until a decade later, when he happened to see Andy Rourke DJing at a Washington, DC club. Koretsky introduced himself, and he and Rourke formed a close friendship that has endured to this day. Rourke, recognizing Koretsky’s innate affinity for music, encouraged him to also become a DJ. Koretsky did, going on to become a fixture on East Village Radio, a popular Greenwich Village-based internet radio station.
Working at East Village Radio expanded Koretsky’s musical knowledge even further, which in turn impacted the electronica-infused alternative rock music he was writing. Eventually, he showed so much skill with his compositions that Rourke was convinced to form D.A.R.K. with him, first as a duo, then Rourke brought in O’Riordan. They released a critically acclaimed debut album, Science Agrees, in 2016. Although Koretsky was the band’s only non-famous member, he served as the main songwriter. “That band was a huge learning curve for me, but ultimately it immeasurably increased my confidence as a songwriter and producer,” Koretsky says, adding that his bandmates seemed equally enthusiastic about the group. “It was an amazing time. We all felt so inspired that we ended up recording so many more songs than we were able to release.”
Koretsky’s unique musical and lyrical perspectives are, no doubt, informed by his decidedly colorful life. Born in the Soviet Union, Koretsky’s family moved to Australia when he was eight years old. By the time he was nine, they had moved again, to New York City, where he has mostly been based ever since. He has, however, a taste for wanderlust, so at any given time, he might be found in California, Spain, or Ukraine. This desire to roam the globe is another joy that he is slowly rediscovering, so he hopes to tour, in America and abroad, to support this EP’s release.
As he looks forward to reviving his musical career, Koretsky stresses that he is not trying to forget his past, nor unduly emphasize it – he simply feels ready to rejoin the world. “I really want to work,” he says. “The trick has been to actually do it. I need to release these songs so all these dark, sad feelings can leave my system. This is a cathartic and healing project for me.”