The Lowdown: Salamanda

Enter the dreamlike world of Seoul-based duo Salamanda. Since meeting in 2018, Sala (aka Uman Therma) and Manda (aka Yetsuby) have become known for their ethereal ambient-leaning productions for labels such as Wisdom Teeth, Human Pitch,Good Morning Tapes and Small Méasures. Each release is a collection of the world around them which is often translated through vocals and field recordings weaved together in an otherworldly way that allows for the listener to escape from reality. This is echoed throughout their live performances where they perform different versions of their releases to see how the audience respond, a constant loop of feedback, leading them to perform at Boiler Room Bali, The White Hotel, Rising Melbourne, NACHTI, Mutek and the upcoming edition of Dekmantel Festival which takes place next week. 

Ahead of their Dutch festival performance we caught up with Salamanda to discuss their first interactions with music, looking into dreams as a source of inspiration, keeping creative with their productions and more.


What was your first interaction with music and how did it make you feel? 

we both grew up in a music-loving household and were surrounded by music from a young age. sala (aka uman therma) remembers sitting in front of a cassette player with her older brother when she was five or six, having fun singing along to an old wobbly korean record. manda (aka yetsuby) started playing piano from a very young age and has always loved playing it ever since. she remembers those moments of having fun while playing some hidden lines in scores.


Why did you choose music to focus on as your main creative expression? 

like mentioned earlier, it’s probably because we both were so familiar with music from a very young age. it’s just so natural that we were driven to do it. music felt like the best vehicle that we can express our world with while enjoying the process, and it has always been ever since we started.


How would you describe the universe you are building with your music? What do you hope listeners take away from the experience? 

perhaps it’s going to be like a place that is otherworldly yet somehow feels familiar and even nostalgic. we’d love the listeners to find a seat inside the universe – a beanbag, yoga mat, first class airplane seat or whatever – and enjoy the relaxation while freeing themselves from the daily dose of stress and fatigue.



How do you stay inspired creatively to ensure that you don’t get stuck with your productions and continue to keep things interesting? What have been some of the biggest creative roadblocks you’ve faced and how did you overcome them? 

the best way to stay inspired and creative would be to explore new territories and boundaries. luckily we have the internet that allows us to navigate from silly memes to ancient hymns, a great local music scene and the two of us sharing ideas and dreams. there still are so many floating ideas and musical areas that we can look into.


Your live performances are perceived as meditations into the world of dreams and imagination – what have been some recent dreams you’ve had that have influenced your art? 

while we can’t think of any specific dream that can be said to have directly influenced our work, the concept of dream definitely inspired us to work on our music like how it did in the ashbalkum release where we imagined a series of weird but colorful dreams.


Have you played around with AI and ChatGPT within your work yet? I was wondering if you’ve inputted dreams into these new technologies to see what comes from it? 

not yet though we’ve tried using them for more casual or informative purposes. it’s been long since humans have built and utilized machines to help with their work, but it still feels weird seeing AIs being used in the creation of artworks. not that it’s bad though. who knows, we all might be using them or even work WITH them for art creations in the not so far future.


Why do you prefer performing live than doing DJ sets? What is it about live shows that draws you to them? 

we love doing dj sets as much as we enjoy performing live, but the thing about live performances is that it allows us to try different stuff with our own music and see how the audiences take in.


What is your approach to live performing? How do you build a show and do you differ it much between tours? 

as our music ranges from experimental bits and meditative ambient pieces to rhythmic leftfield and downtempos, our main focus is on keeping the flow and continuity of our set. we try to make each shows unique and different if time allows. sometimes we work on new bits just to perform live. having shows differ from each other is much more fun for us and it makes each show feels more special.


You embarked on your first UK/EU tour earlier this year and will be coming back for another string of shows this summer, including Dekmantel Festival. What do you enjoy the most about playing in Europe? What were some of your highlights from the last tour? What are you looking forward to the most for this one? 

it’s always fun to experience new cities and meet new people, and we had fun being in so many different cities early this year when touring around the uk and eu. though it would have been great if we had more time and money to travel and explore around, we got to meet a bunch of kind and lovely and professional people, and that might be the highlight of the tour (not to mention good italian food! <3). super excited to be back to europe this summer, and it’s also going to be our first time visiting the netherlands, so can’t wait to be there! one of the best things about being able to perform at festivals is that not only your name gets to be on those fabulous posters, you get to see all those amazing lineups performing in person. as much as we’re happy to perform and introduce ourselves to new audiences, we’re so hyped to see the other shows there!


Dekmantel Festival takes places from the 2nd – 6th August – buy tickets here.

Photo credit: ELS (IG @everylastsecond) & Phoenix Central Park (@phoenixcentralpark)