Words by:
Photographer: Alva Le Febvre

On the cover of ML Buch’s second album, Suntub, the Danish musician’s straight, dark blonde hair is lifted by a gentle waft of wind. Behind her, stalks of wheat bend with the breeze. Her face is mostly obscured by the varnished wooden head of a seven-string Stratocaster, and exactly where her right eye should be is the tuning peg for the high E string. The metal peg catches a sunbeam, sparking such a bright flare it makes the whole image look synthetic; a ClipArt explosion pasted onto a layered collage of field, human, guitar.

Instead, Buch proudly explains that the photograph is totally unedited, simply the result of waiting for the light to hit just right. “I caught a moment,” she says, sincerely. “I guess that’s symptomatic of my way of working.”


Such delightful serendipity fills Suntub. Over 15 tracks, Buch combines fearless electronic experimentation and open-hearted nostalgia, sounding uncannily new and old at the same time, like a fresh memory. The guitar sits at the heart of the album, shapeshifting into different guises as Buch blurs the lines between soft rock showmanship, bratty reverb and spacious psychedelia. All the while, her direct, visceral lyrics conjure up abstract landscapes, from glistening coastlines to decomposing forests. Body parts are scattered through these scenes (“chattering” pores, a “flapping face”, a crow’s beady “cherry eye”) alongside symbolic objects old and new, including a “well bucket of ancestors’ drool” and a basic camera. Buch’s uncanny environments tease out themes of connection and disconnection (from nature, oneself, others), but also celebrate heady euphoria, and the kinds of feelings that make you acutely aware of your own humanity: sunlight on your eyelids, wind on your face, being tightly held.

Some songs, like High Speed Calm Air Tonight, feel almost frictionless, with Buch’s smooth, sustained vocals skimming like a pebble over blurry, manipulated guitar. Others are far more bodily: Solid explores the limits of the human form via flood and drought, thorns and whirling brooks, as if Buch herself is dissolving into the natural landscape. “Will it root in my mouth/ This bulgy poppy head/ On this tongue bed?” she longingly questions.

“It’s a fantasy I’ve tried to live out, through music,” she says, explaining these abstract environments over the phone from a bright, snowy Copenhagen. “It’s like creating an open-world game, in which you can move around and explore.” Buch often describes Suntub as a “world” or a “universe”, and the songs are “small tableaus and scenes” within it. There is no overarching story, no narrative journey, no beginning or end; simply a collection of thoughts, feelings, objects and sounds, to be examined and felt.


For instance, album opener Pan Over the Hill describes a sunny, windswept place that evokes images of the Windows XP default wallpaper, bursting with Teletubby-green hills and bright blue skies. Synthesised chords see-saw back and forth, there’s dreamy guitar noodling, and, eventually, one crystal-clear riff: “Wanna sound like a clearing,” Buch sings serenely, embracing an ecstatic loneliness. Her only companions are “squeaky grass”, a spider in its web, a camera broken into parts, and the sound of distant train tracks, hinting at a remote possibility for human connection. “This sets the scene for the whole album,” Buch enthuses. “I’m exploring disconnection. It’s disjointed. You know, it’s a mystery to me as well. It’s very abstract, I can’t really…” she trails off, dissolving into laughter.

Speaking with Buch sometimes feels like listening to a friend recall a dream. She speaks gently and tangentially, questioning herself as she goes. It feels oddly fitting that our attempts to video call should be hampered by connection difficulties; I catch just a glimpse of her at the start, dressed warmly in a sharp-collared shirt underneath a cosy zip-up jumper, smiling widely. After reverting to a phone call, the sounds of Buch’s environment feel heightened: small sips of coffee, her hand hitting a surface to punctuate a thought, the breathy panting of her dog, Carla, looking to play.

"It's funny talking about the sun because it's so worn out, such a cliché, but that's the beauty of it. It is such a life-giver"

Disconnection is a central theme on Suntub, as Buch pushes and pulls between a desire for space, independence, selfhood, and the possibility of gaining those things through community. On Fleshless Hand, Buch even toys with a kind of romance; the song is about a moment of connection so powerful that it could strip skin from body. “You hold my fleshless hand/ I’m all hollow organs,” she sings, her voice layered into an angelic choir. “Are those your nerves that clatter gurgle shriek?/ Are those your eyes smiling back at me?

On first listen, it’s hard to process that such a lush, peaceful-sounding song has the capacity to get so gory, but boiling sensation down to blood and guts comes naturally to Buch. “I’ve seen a lot of dead animals,” she says, matter-of-fact. “Animals killing each other. Roadkill. I guess I have a fascination with flesh and skin and blood. It’s what we’re made of, all of us.” In the same song, the sun’s copper beams bleach everything and everyone, leaving bones picked perfectly clean. “I feel like I wouldn’t mind rotting like that, you know,” she murmurs.


It’s little surprise that, for an album named Suntub, the sun’s warmth – and power, and colour, and potential for violence – should take over many of its tracks. The record’s stadium-sized centrepiece, Big Sun, sounds like a Pearl Jam song slowed down and played in reverse: grungy, capacious, made for big spaces. “It’s funny talking about the sun because it’s so worn out, such a cliché, but that’s the beauty of it. It is such a life-giver,” she muses. “I like to work with the most sung about and written about phenomena.”

As a result, Suntub brings together some of pop rock’s most enduring tropes – blinding sunshine, open roads, fast cars, isolation – and uses them as conduits for horizon-sized emotions. On River Mouth, she harnesses the angst and fuzz of a band like Smashing Pumpkins to create a “teenagey” experience of emotions spilling over, while Somewhere’s soaring, slow-motion melodies recall both shoegaze and New Age. Despite playing with pastiche, “I’m not making fun of any genres or traditions of guitar music,” she asserts. “I’m just trying to feel free to move around.”


This pursuit of freedom – another well-travelled cliché – is reflected in Buch’s patient determination to coax surprising sounds from her instruments. On Suntub, she played on a fretless bass and seven-stringed electric guitar in open tunings, developing a preference for bends, slides and slippery smooth transitions. She used virtual guitars that emulate hammer-ons, pull-offs and the sound of fingers squeaking on fretboards, delighting in the wonky revelations of technology’s misinterpretations.

On Flame Shards Goo, a psychedelic, kind-of-road-trip song, Buch fed pitch-bends into a variety of plug-ins (“I would never have been able to play what they gave me! It’s very elastic, very flexible”) and then re-amped the results through her car stereo. Driving through the Danish countryside, listening back to this woozy, dreamlike guitarscape, she improvised the vocal melody. “Today, I move in jagged lines,” she croons, “I just wanna waste my time.” These process-heavy experiments are time-consuming, but that’s exactly what she likes about them: “I have a Danish word on my tongue: bøvlet. What I mean is, I don’t mind for music-making to be a winding road.”


Suntub’s drifting spirit is tangible. The songs were made through movement, recorded in saunas, swimming pools and changing rooms, as well as inside her Peugeot. Both Fleshless Hand and Dust Beam, a meandering instrumental which fizzes with white noise, were finished in Det Røde Pakhus, a warehouse-turned-community venue in a coastal town called Skælskør, while it was closed during Covid. Buch camped there for three days, sleeping behind the stage. “It would be easier to have a studio space, and just go there every day,” she admits, laughing. “But this is a way of living out my curiosities. I wanted to be adventurous with the means at hand.”

Buch grew up in Copenhagen, raised by musical parents. Her father is a guitarist with a love for music from the 50s, 60s and 70s (“Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, and of course, the Beatles”). Her mother plays the fiddle and accordion, with a preference for Scandinavian and Irish folk. She was born Marie Louise, ‘ML’ a nickname given by her grandfather that she enjoys for its utilitarian feel: “Fixing your sink, the ML Buch company! It’s just my name, but it creates a tiny distance, and I’m free to do what I like inside of that.”

She describes how she would stare moodily into a lava lamp as a music-obsessed teenager (Michael Jackson, Metallica’s symphonic album S&M, Danish bubblegum pop) while trying to learn to play guitar, and laughs out loud at yet another cliché. As a student at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Conservatory, she studied composition, but wouldn’t consider herself classically trained. “I wanted to try to go at it in my own way,” she declares.

Buch’s sincere, almost stubborn determination to explore on her own terms is the glue that holds Suntub together. Freaky yet gentle, innovative yet deeply nostalgic, Suntub’s beauty lies in how it embraces our human clichés, tenderly blitzing them into a primordial soup of universal feeling. These songs embrace the sweet, sad irony that life means following in other peoples’ footsteps, despite our desire to draw our own maps. Even when we’re apart, we’re together. There’s nothing new under the sun, but we still feel our own firsts with blazing intensity.

Buch is soon to embark on a co-headline tour with fellow Danish composer Astrid Sonne. Translating Suntub’s highly processed songs into live performances that “feel free” is another riddle for Buch, but it gives her the opportunity to witness the album’s exploration of loneliness and togetherness, connection and disconnection, play out in real time for her audiences. “Maybe [these songs] can make it feel like a room of their own, a more communal one. Maybe it can be both…” She pauses, before adding: “Actually, every way of experiencing the music is perfect, you know.”

Suntub is out now via 15 Love