For those of us who have never had the pleasure or the privilege of attending the fabled Freerotation festival in Wales, the glut of live recordings that have surfaced over the past few years merely provides a taste of what’s on offer. Ambient sets recorded in the yurt from Jane Fitz and Surgeon sit alongside exploratory workouts from Neel and Magic Mountain High, while now legendary DJ sets from Objekt and the Hessle trio show that it’s far from a breezy hippie get-together.
In the wake of a weekend-long jam session that followed the festival in 2012, organiser Steevio laid down a few tracks alongside mainstays Juju & Jordash, Move D and Soulphiction. The High-on-Wye Quintet (a play on Hay-on-Wye, the town closest to the festival site of Baskerville Hall) provided the first release on the Freerotation label in late 2014. The Hafod Jams (Part 1) were a study in paced delight, with ‘Cedar Of Lebanon’/’Spongy Tree’ coming in at a hefty 18 minutes. Just as this release took its sweet time from inception to release, so did the second on the label, the Resolute EP from Monoak, a London-based Irishman who’s been steadily building his profile over the past few years. He recorded a mix for Rob Booth’s Electronic Explorations podcast series, as well as a live set for the Null+Void Rinse FM show, gave away a track on XLR8R and played a rake of gigs, honing and refining his live set.
Having played at Freerotation in 2014 and 2015, it’s no surprise that the label release his debut EP; according to its SoundCloud bio, “the label’s purpose is to provide a platform for Freerotation artists to experiment and collaborate, and to give a voice to upcoming and under exposed artists”. This release follows the template as heard in those live sets mentioned above, with driving techno underpinned by a deft melodic touch. Arriving in early December, it may have passed unnoticed, with list season in full flow. At the mercy of pressing plants, such is often the lot for the vinyl-only release.
The title track, which featured in that Null+Void set mentioned above, races ahead with ghostly intensity, shimmering flourishes rolling out of each phrase like a playful run up a keyboard. A motorised voice utters a repeated, unknowable phrase, while the drums dance so lightly as to appear translucent. ‘When’ follows a similar pattern, its murky synth tones refusing any great certainty, giving way to major chords and stomping percussion. The B-side is perhaps the stronger pair here, beginning with ‘Amay’, all sparkling melodies that could be lifted out and transposed into a killer track in almost any genre — it’s not even a million miles from ‘March Madness’. The whole release has a timeless air about it, unwilling to fit into any recognisable trend or mode, but this track in particular stands out by virtue of those virtuoso phrases that sing through in every octave and level of modulation. ‘Sync Sequence1’ takes flight in a slightly shocking direction. Opening with a simple rubato phrase that suggests a wry playfulness, it moves into bouncing 12/8 time as juddery sparkles of sound float above mournful arpeggios. The gently rattling percussion seems to be built from field recordings, but rather than lending an air of natural organics, this simply makes the track feel even more strange.
The Resolute EP is not perfect. Despite its impeccable sound design, the opening side of incessant beats never really veers far enough from the realm of the functional. Heard in context, away from the confines of a 12″, it can be absolutely killer. In isolation, it can begin to plod. The flip, however, succeeds wildly, and gives us great hope for further electronic explorations from Monoak.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 31 January 2016. Leave a comment
A few of our writers tell us about how their 2015 worked out and what their plans are for this year. They collaboratively share their favourite music-related memories and tell you about their favourite upcoming artists, record sleeves, local venues and record labels. Shouts out to everyone who didn’t hand in their answers, we still love you. To kick off the proceedings we’ll just leave ‘Gym Full of Truants’ below; not from 2015, but the soundtrack to those new year resolutions maybe. Donate to Truants here. <3
TAYYAB AMIN, HYPE MAN AT TRUANTS | ABOUT.ME
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “It’s been one of the toughest years, though I think it’s also been rewarding in ways I don’t yet fully comprehend. As for future plans, I’ll quote Margiela: “Continuity.””
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “There’s a moment in the “Man Don’t Care” video where JME takes a lighter to a university qualification certificate. That piece of paper, so flimsy and so fragile, is a glass cannon that can hold a special importance to people of different diaspora in Britain. JME wilfully burns the treacherous degree and uses it to set alight his microphone. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it for the first time, so inspiring it was, and I think about it a lot.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “The Truancy Volume Samrai & Platt sent us was something I really loved. I’d heard Murlo’s “Furnace” at July’s Swing Ting and I was so excited for everyone else to hear it in the mix before the EP dropped. Similarly, The Large’s TV was pure kamehameha. Nidia Minaj and Kamixlo’s respective mixes for Dazed blew my mind, as did the recording of Total Freedom at Bambi’s and Voices From The Lake’s take for The Bunker. Whilst rushing to complete my university project, ANGEL-HO’s Death Drop From Heaven kept me going, and I celebrated with Paula Temple’s set at Bloc – I needed their bravery. Due to severe nostalgia of their set with Gyða Valtýsdóttir at Unsound 2014, I watched this clip of Zs breaking and rebuilding their math rock shit in Milan, 2013 a lot too.”
What was your favorite record artwork? “I would normally have several lists on the go – favourite visual work, best album art, best press photography etc. But that hasn’t been the case this year – it’s been a strange year for me and the way I perceive things. However I did really like the choosing of the artwork for Future’s DS2, if not the artwork itself. It is in fact a stock image by Sanja Tošić, not created with purpose for the album. Its selection for the album speaks to me: There are others who may have already expressed that which we wish to express, and that we have the power to imbue iconic status into something that has previously gone inconspicuous and tucked away.”
JOEY LINDEN, IN HOUSE MEME TEAM COORDINATOR AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Year was weird but good, relocated back to Detroit from NYC. My plan for next year is to get the Paris of the Midwest its swag back!!!!!”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? Seeing all of my friends grow as artists and find success in the pursuit of their craft and art. Djing for Pitchfork in Detroit. Call it peak but it was nice Djing for skepta with ratking on Know-Wave when no one knew about him in America and then going on to see him take over America. Elysia Paul Crampton gaining the notoriety she deserves! Diverse, fearless and intelligent artists gaining a voice and starting to dismantle the un-intellectual bro-y industrial complex. Anything involving Nicki Minaj. Following Akash on vine.
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? Probably anything by Total Freedom and Ikonika, because they show you the beauty in the chaos, and help make sense of this world.
What is your favorite venue, tell us about a fond memory of that place? Spending the amount of time I did at brooklyn’s 285 kent for its last year of existence was essential to my understanding of electronic music. My first week living in NYC, I had no friends, and I went to 285 kent alone and saw DJ rashad and DJ manny do a b2b set before opening up for Zomby. There were probably 15 people at the venue. Seeing Rashad and Manny spin footwork that one time changed my entire views/understanding of electronic music forever. After that I never missed DJ rashad when he played in NYC – and the feeling I felt watching him that in that time period is something I look for, through music, almost every day.”
RICCARDO VILLELLA, SOLID SNAKE AT TRUANTS | TWITTER & SOUNDCLOUD
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Apart from getting far too inebriated at Bloc to remember anything substantial for the post-festival review, musically my year hasn’t been the most exciting of one’s; it has however been one of the busiest 12 months. As a third year Graphic Design student my time has been divided between Adobe programs and planning the Truancy Volumes, so having managed both to a reasonably decent degree is a great feeling to close the year out on. Plans for next year include finishing my studies, producing more music to a level where I can finally feel confident in sharing, and getting out the UK at least once which would already be more than I did in 2015. Maybe finally complete all Crash Bandicoot games 100% too.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Bicep closing out their XOYO residency without a doubt. You only have to watch this video of the confetti canon going off to their Dominca edit to catch a small glimpse of how up for it the crowd was all night. Getting to also hear Art Crime – Release on a system with that Ellis D acapella over the top was a true clubbing moment for me. I really wish there was a photo of my face at that particular minute – my arms have never been that high in the air. My younger brother had also just moved to London and having really bonded musically with him over the last couple of years, getting to go with him and experience this great night together just adds to the memory. Coupled with the fact that their Truancy Volume was going live a few days after, amidst a barrage of excited messages between me and Soraya, it was a really good week.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I feel like I’ve listened to more mixes than actual singular tracks this year so this is a hard one to pick out. First one I’m going to pick is a mix by Laurent Garnier which was actually recorded live in 2003 from a Welcome To The Rave! party but got posted by the Phonographe Corp web site last year as part of their mix series. Banging old school techno that proves you don’t need to sound industrial to play a banging, hard techno set. I only found out about this mix this year and it’s been one of my most played recordings that’s led me to so many bombs. 2 Rare People – Time and D-Shake – Techno Trance (Paradise Is Now Mix) being two particular standouts. Come to think of it a lot of my favourite mixes are old recordings that have been posted online in recent times. DJ Pooch – Seducation (April 1993) mix and Kemistry & Storm Live at the Edge (1995) being two others. I’ve also listened to that State Of Me track at 28 minutes in that DJ Metatron track like a hundred times. The whole mix has soundtracked many night time bus journeys home.”
Which new artists are you most excited about (and why)? “Denis Sulta has had a fantastic year especially towards the end there with the Numbers release, so that probably gets set to continue next year. Duckett was another new name to appear this year whom I’ve been following closely. His release for UntilMyHeartStops is amazing and he recently did a live recording for Snare featuring lots of live Duckett material that’s definitely worth checking out. Then there’s people like Umfang, Shinra, the other Andrea, Vidock, Shape Worship that should all be doing good stuff.”
JESS MELIA, TOMMY SHELBY AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “I’ve had a pretty crazy year to be honest; finally got a job that I’m actually interested in and out of a string of retail jobs that were destroying me. I’ve been asked to work on some questionable stuff like this but largely, it’s pretty good. My boyfriend and I moved into a house in Leeds city centre and we just got a sausage dog! Unfortunately all that meant my role as TT scheduling soulja took a bit of a hit but hopefully January will see me back in the mix. Some friends and I also started a night in Leeds called Come Thru – we hope it promotes more diversity in clubs and aim to create an equal platform for people to play the music they love. Next year we’ve got Come Thru’s 1st birthday so we’ll be planning something good for that as well as looking for like minded nights or people to collab with so holler if you’re keen!”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Definitely the time that Sophie Kindreich came down to play at Come Thru – the crowd went crazy for her set. The best bit was when she dropped a happy hardcore mix of Body Party, it went off. I just remember glancing around, mouth wide-open at the incredible reaction.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I need to get back into my TT mix mode and write some more but I was super stoked to have interviewed Nightwave this year, her Truancy Volume was great and she’s such a humble person. Probably also this Leonce b2b Helix – Fade To Mind Rinse FM mix, mostly for my obsession with the Rihanna refix – took me so long to track that one down. Oh and The Large’s TV definitely, that was my summer Jam!”
ANTOIN LINDSAY, AUBERGINE EMOJI AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “On balance, probably the best I’ve had so far. Got a job, moved back to a city I love after being away for a few years, embraced parts of my identity that I could never have foreseen myself embracing. Downside has meant I’ve been busier than ever and I’ve not had the chance to listen to as much music, but I feel like that makes it more precious when I do. Moving to a bigger city has also lent itself to me seeing a broader spectrum of DJs which in turn has widened my appreciation for more sounds I’d never really given time to. Next year I hope this will continue and maybe get to travel a bit more. If I don’t get smothered completely by letting agent fees I’ll hopefully get Stateside to see my crew there!”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Being sent completely catatonic by Hessle Audio closing Freerotation. Honorary mention to Swing Ting for routinely creating a fun and welcoming environment in a city I was basically starting afresh in.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “Too much! I wish I could have got involved with more Truancy Volumes this year but incredibly chuffed that Truancy Volume 109: Leif turned out to be so special and I’ve probably listened this and his other mixes at Freerotation and for Phonica more than anything else. My guys Samrai & Platt turned in a really special Truancy Volume, as did The Large. Shouts to the Dekmantel crew for putting together a really strong mix series, with Midland, Sassy J and Beautiful Swimmers getting the heaviest rotation at Chez Lindsay. It goes without saying I’m still listening to the Hessle Audio Rinse FM show every week too. But the most important listening of the year for me was Principe Discos’ month long residency at Rinse FM. They enlightened me with so much music, sent me off on so many tangents and left me excited for whatever they’ve got up their sleeve next.”
What is your favorite venue, tell us about a fond memory of that place? “Shouts to Soup Kitchen forever. I’ve had so many amazing moments there this year but what stands out for me was very specific in hearing Jon K play a Dopplereffekt record that I hadn’t heard out before, and considering I’m thinking about getting some kind of Drexciya tattoo next year, things like that will always resonate.”
SOPHIE KINDREICH | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “It’s been my first year spent out of full-time education since I was a wee girl. Although the circumstances that led to my dropping out were less than ideal, the ease with which I was able to accept that university wasn’t the right place for me (definitely not now, possibly not ever) came as a relief and a surprise. I celebrated my mum’s 60th and my gran’s 80th, and appreciated more keenly than ever before their strength and resilience. I’ve been djing more regularly than I did in 2014 and doing my best to get over imposter syndrome; being given the opportunity to become a resident somewhere has really helped on that front. 2015 was also the year I managed to close an overdraft that had become a major source of anxiety. I’m not really sure what 2016 holds for me yet but I’d like for my health to become less erratic, *Thugger voice* that’s allllll…”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Getting an overwhelmingly positive reaction when I finished my set at Free Pride, a local alternative pride event. The Black Madonna playing a soulful, heady set in Sub Club; what made it more special is that it happened to be the first time I’ve managed to catch a woman djing in there. Making two pilgrimages to Swing Ting and getting to dance to tracks I don’t have a hope of hearing played out in Glasgow. Finally meeting more of the Truants family: Tobias by complete chance in a basement in Dalston; Jess, Tayyab and Matt C at the first Come Thru party.”
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Really dumb I started writing and it’s been a steep learning process, but slowly and surely getting the hang of it. As for next year I’m going to try to be as brown and equally mediocre as possible.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Seeing Kanye perform for the first time.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “MA_DJ and Manara’s Rinse Mix. Hearing Dej, Strings Hoe, Holler and(!) Freeze Tag Booty alongside songs of South Asian background, (mixing these all seamlessly together seems inherently difficult in itself) that I don’t know the title of but recognise, for example, being heard emanating from the kitchen while sitting on my living room rug growing up is so cool to me. Finding tracks such as Rangeela Re again through friends, Twitter or BBC AXN NETWORK shows almost makes up for (what i now know was) relative coconut assimilation life for about 20 years. Like, I often know all of the words even if i don’t know the name of the track, almost akin to Hwoarang’s 10-hit combo in Tekken 3 that I can’t for the life of me recite, but it’s still stored safely as muscle memory in my thumbs. This mix resonated with of all of that relearning this year, the selection being in addition to the thought and skill required to make those transitions flawless. In fact, I remember vividly being at Earthly IV at Corsica when the Das Ja vs Loyal (thank you Nikesh Parmar) mix was being played by Manara and everyone on the dancefloor suddenly could breathe a little easier because many a person (mainly white) had vacated to Room 2. (For the record, I fully believe there would have been a different reaction if any popular white dj had blindly parachuted the same songs into their set) But those who stayed, whatever skin colour were poppin off together to such. a. rare. moment; especially to the diaspora with a vague af sense of home. So that night in taking the rest of the year into account, was definitely a turning point and an early indication of the type of person to be unable to enjoy it being left behind in their own pretending, tired and poisonous spaces, starved of the kind of music in this 2 hour mix. Easily racked up a Final Fantasy VII average playtime listening to this cross-atlantic desi b2b since it dropped so, tl;dr, much respect and thank you.”
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “It’s been a learning experience, as always. I know myself better than I did a year ago. I feel there has been significant development in the DC electronic music scene with labels like 1432 R, Future Times, and People’s Potential Unlimited, venues such as Flash and U Street, and monthly parties like ROAM. It’s been tough getting to shows since I live in the suburbs and work full-time, but I hope to be more involved in contributing to DC’s growth next year. I plan to record more mixes, work on tracks and create more artwork in general. I would really like to do the artwork for a vinyl release sometime soon.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “As far as live performances go, Holly Herndon at DC9 was the most memorable; the whirring of a helicopter about to crash through the roof, the audience wide-eyed at the interactive and evolving projections, answering crowd questions like “what should I say to the girl next to me?” with “respect her space,” and the encompassing power of Herndon’s voice layered and looped. Personally, I loved mixing records at home, learning about production and making music with Pcoat, an incredibly talented producer and my best friend :)”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “Thinking about it now, I guess I spent about 50 hours per week listening to music, so that’s a lot of mixes. Some favorites were 1432 R for Radar Radio, Dekmantel and Freerotation sets, Extended Family mix series, система | system mix series, Gost Zvuk for Raid, Field Records mix by Mark du Mosch, Truancy Volumes by Bicep and Endian, and anything by Ben UFO, Call Super or Objekt. I really like mixes that are eclectic, show an emotional range, and highlight the DJ’s influences and personality, and feel these selections exemplify that.”
Tell us about a label that you think is doing exciting things right now, visually or otherwise? “A few labels out of Russia have me really excited. Gost Zvuk, their sub label, Gost Instrument, and Johns’ Kingdom have this sort of hybrid sound that feels really new and introspective. I also really like the typography on the hand-stamped labels, and the image of a drafting compass for Gost Instrument reminds me of playing with my dad’s architectural drawing tools as a kid. Between their artwork, mixes, productions and unique perspective, I think the Moscow electronic scene has a lot to offer. Out of DC, I think 1432 R have a definitive sound and strength of vision, and their artwork is unique with its delicate lines and bold imagery. They just have me really excited about the future of electronic music in DC.”
TOBIAS SHINE | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Year has been super lush!! Started up a party called EVE in Sydney w my friends and also finished my undergrad degree :P but it has been fkd to live in a country whose government is pure evil, pursuing a very open/publicly consented/centuries-long genocide of Aboriginal folk and rly rly awful and disturbing refugee policy. Australia is in a very dark place atm, as I guess a lot of other places are.. but I’m also so lucky and grateful to be surrounded by ppl who continue to rally and bloom together and who are so generous with their time and thoughts!!”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Had such a fun weekend in berlin w lotic, why be, dangelxxx one nite then mesh kablam + tomas urquieta the next.. also seeing team amr haha go tf in on a big F1 rig to like 20 ppl in the back of a ldn pub, with Simon. Cooking and smoking grey haze w Soraya while listening to ds2. Getting imaabs to Aus!!”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I love to listen to rave tapes when I’m out so on a nice day i always rinse Mumdance b2b Loefah hardcore special, Untold’s fact mix or Slimzee’s tape for us. Slimzee’s fader mix on Sundays!! At home: Wavejumper’s soundtrack for quiet kettle or Venus X and Fatima al Qadiri superego or the silk bless tape / all bekele tbh. b4 club: The Large for the astral plane or for us. after club: TF wrong choice mixfile duh!!!”
What is your favorite venue, tell us about a fond memory of that place? “OK so this is pretty deep rn!!! It’s gotta be goodgod and they closed like last weekend :’( been shaking my butt on the df there at least once a month for the past 4 yrs so feeling v broken rn!! Litch too many fond memories.. but two would have to be the first Night Slugz takeover in early 2013 and DJ Rashad going offfff on a Thursday nite ahhh rip goodgod rip Rashad!! :’’’( But can’t even describe how instrumental this place has been for me and my family and for so many ppl here in Syd lol now we have nothing !!!! Internationally: horst krzbrg but thats closed as well fkkk.”
MATT COOMBS, EDM CORRESPONDENT AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Ups and downs for sure! A lot happens in a year, you know? Aced some exams, learned some new skills. In these recent months especially I feel like i’ve learned a lot about myself, cut out the bullshit, and that’s a powerful thing! They don’t want you to learn about yourself. They don’t want you to jet ski. I won’t bore you with specific goals for next year, just keep on growing, be less passive, continue to embrace the absurdity of life. The keys to success. I promise you. Another one.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Hard to distill down to one! Really enjoyed meeting fellow Truants on the road and sharing experiences with them. Ricc and Simon at Bloc. Sophie, Tayyab and Antoin at Come Thru. In mentioning Come Thru I of course have to give a s/o to Jess and the team. I’m sure she’ll talk about it a little but it’s been a wonderful and necessary introduction. Some of my favourite times in the club this year have been there. Seeing friends thrive >>>. Of course it’s been wonderful again to talk to some really talented people with vital stories to tell, and to present it on this platform that I’m so proud of is a blessing.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I’m not too sure how much i’ve gone back and listened to mixes. I feel like that’s telling but more about my attention span than anything else. A few stand out for sure though. Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke’s POINTCLOUDS mix is of course phenomenal. So excited for what they’re cooking up. I’d 100% recommend going in with the visuals if you can spare the time and your internet can handle it. Slackk’s Boxed classics mix for Dazed really hammered home the work that all those guys have done. You only have to look at the tracklist and it blows you away. Classics. It’s too many to mention with the Truancy Volumes to be honest. A few personal highlights: Kid Antoine, Falty DL, Nightwave, Karen Gwyer and Slimzee (!!!). Just looking at that list intoxicates me.”
How have you seen the club culture of your city change, and what would you do to improve it? “For as much as I’ve tried, the village I live in still doesn’t have any club culture. You try and book the village hall for a set but the folks need to play their Bingo and do their Zumba, right? Sure i’m joking but being out in the sticks means I just dip into different places, maybe that’s interesting. I don’t really identify with any particular spaces in that way. Do we have Oculus Rift nightclubs yet? Is that a thing? *reseals can of worms* On the real, I think all of us are in agreement on how we can at least start to improve club culture and have voiced these things in the past, whether on Twitter or through talking with artists and writing on Truants. More of that. It’s a must.”
SINDHUJA SHYAM, FUCK BOY IN TRAINING AT TRUANTS
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “I’ve had better years but it feels oddly good and fruitful, like a boss battle that takes ages and it sucks and you’re almost dead but you know you’re gonna get a lot of EXP after.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “To be honest, I don’t have one specific memory that I carry with me. I’ve had to take a distance from Truants responsibilities to focus on uni but simultaneously have grown closer to love for music again. It’s come back as my best friend in the passenger seat instead of locked up in the trunk like it was last year, which is what I’ll remember this year for. I’ve managed to phase out the overstimulating internet vibes on music and new things and just gone back to keeping up with rap/R&B top 40 and whatever ghazals my mom sends me and that’s been a blessing and a ½.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “Definitely MA Nguzu’s Tobago Tracks mix. I mean it goes from a loyal bhangra refix to Tory Lanez to Immorales. If there’s ever a mix that could sum me up, it’s this one. Obviously also the Kuedo mix for Truants.“
Tell us about a label that you think is doing exciting things right now, visually or otherwise? “NON Records, BBC AZN Network, we desperately need more diverse narratives that break through the same boring voices that currently dominate the scene, all they’re good for is exoticizing and colombusing subcultures. That’s why I love these collectives because they provide dancefloors hosted by artists that tell their own important stories.”
ERADJ YAKUBOV, DREADED CULTURAL MARXIST AT TRUANTS ☭ | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “I’ve had eventful year with many positives tempered by a few but significant low points, but significantly I’ve moved to (and hopefully settled in – bureaucracy permitting!) Cologne, a city which I’ve come to feel at home in and where I am close to dear friends. As for the coming year – I hope to find the time to write more, read more, to finally finish a long-running research project and to get a cat.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “There have been many special moments, so it is quite hard to pick a single one. But a “short” list – seeing Laurel Halo play a tremendous, captivating live set in the summer, and only a few weeks ago experiencing the live project of Holly Herndon, Mat Dryhurst and Colin Self in the wonderful Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf – a performance that was impressive both in its aesthetic and (non-cliched) political ambition and execution. I was lucky to see Jan Schulte play a DJ set in which his handling of rhythm and melody, not to mention the track selections, left me and several of my friends completely speechless. And a series of fantastic parties here in Cologne – with JD Twitch, Helena Hauff, the Golden Pudel crew, Traxx and others, with support from the many superb local DJs from the city.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “It must be between an Angel Food mix on Radar Radio which featured a guest mix from Kablam, Karen Gweyer’s mix for our of Truancy Volume series, and a radio mix by a very close friend (and one of my favourite DJs). Somewhat less frequent in plays but no lesser in quality or my enjoyment of them were mixes/radio shows from Resom, with her tape special on BCR and her guest appearance on the Hessle Audio Rinse show being my favourites. All of the above I enjoyed in various ways and they affected me differently, but all feel to me as being products of work and reflections of very talented and unique people (and the start of the Kablam mix was – and dozens of listening lates still is, completely emotionally overwhelming for me :D ).”
What is your favorite venue, tell us about a fond memory of that place? “A lot has been written about it, much by people who will have done a much better job than I ever could in putting across how great it is, but for me there is no place better than Hamburg’s Golden Pudel. The building itself is very special – with its old wooden walls that creak along to the music, but what really makes it great are the wonderful people, from the super-diverse audience to the Pudel family who work and DJ there, and who are not just some of the best, most interesting DJs I’ve seen play but are also incredibly welcoming and good-hearted people.”
SIMON DOCHERTY, TECHNO LOGICIAN AT TRUANTS | TWITTER & SOUNDCLOUD
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Full of love. Besides proving lots of theorems, next year I’m starting a night with my partner Maya. It’s called Wild Combination and the first party will be on January 29th with Nidia Minaj, Debonair and Reckonwrong. You can buy tickets here.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Performing at Unsound.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “This Toxe set for NTS, Nidia Minaj’s mix for Dazed & Confused and everything by Malin, Avalon Emerson and Lena Willikens As far as Truancy Volumes go: A Made Up Sound, Leif, rRoxymore and Kuedo. I couldn’t possibly choose between the Functions Of The Now mixes.. they’re mine and Tobias’ babies and we love them all equally.”
MATT GIBNEY, FOOT SOLDIER AT TRUANTS
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “Overall, really good. I can’t complain. The final year of my undergrad degree was a bit of a slog at times, and meant I missed out on some parties and festivals that I’d been eyeing up, but it all reached a pretty satisfactory conclusion. Since graduating I’ve been unable to up sticks from Manchester and have started another degree in a different, only very tenuously related field. The change and has been refreshing, giving me some renewed focus. Next year I’d like to properly find my feet, finish with academia and travel some more, hopefully taking in some overseas festivals and friends on the way!”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Gottwood Festival was the definite highlight of 2015for ne. From the crew I was with to the programming, setting, stage design and some unusually good Welsh weather, it had it pretty much all. Move D’s three hour set in a mock boat – which managed to encompass everything from The Streets to Rosinha De Valença – was probably the best festival set I’ve seen and one which will definitely be etched into my memory for some time. Aside from that, I’ve had some great times dancing at parties in Manchester. Shouts to the likes of Selective Hearing, Meat Free and meandyou. for providing them.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I’m going be fairly biased with my first pick and give a nod to Truancy Volume 132. Endian was someone I’d wanted to see a studio mix from for ages and so to get it ourselves was a real coup. That’s been getting rinsed a fair amount since going up a few weeks ago. I’d say the consistency of all the Truancy Volumes and Functions of the Now contributions has been the best we’ve ever had, so shouts to each and every person who delivered or set one up! Radiowise, I’ve made sure to catch each and every Hessle show, while I’ve also discovered loads of great new (to me at least) music through Bake’s new Rinse slot. Sano’s Bedroom Tapes show on Radio Cómeme, which features unreleased music only, has also been great for this.”
What is your favorite venue, tell us about a fond memory of that place? “As great as Manchester is for nights out, one thing which had bugged me slightly was the lack of decent mid-sized venues. At one end of the spectrum you obviously have places like The Warehouse Project while at the other you’ve got the likes of Soup Kitchen, Joshua Brooks and, until recently, the Roadhouse – all great venues which have received plenty of deserved plaudits. The arrival of Hidden, a 650 capacity converted warehouse on the outskirts of the city centre, was something I was delighted to see. Since opening a few months back they’ve got so much right: an excellent soundsystem, security who manage to avoid being overzealous and some consistently excellent bookings. I’ve had great fun there seeing the likes of Floating Points, Craig Richards and Levon Vincent and hope for more of the same in 2016.”
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “This year has been insane. Personally, I became a father, so that’s been a whole trip in itself. Musically, I travelled to Berlin for CTM and Belfast to catch the Hessle trio (shouts to Antoin), meeting some great people on both weekends. Most of my time with music has been intimate and personal; I hope next year I can share the experience again. I hope to get some structure back into my life, while allowing the possibility of random chaos to continue.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “I wrote about all the great stuff at CTM already (particularly the stunning performance of Jenny Hval and Susanna), but apart from that I didn’t get to attend to many musical events. One unexpected highlight was hearing Marcus Price play “Why The Fuck You Lying” during his warm-up set for Hannibal Buress.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “EB Radio Presents: Call Super – The Sound of Basement Q Volume 2. Call Super did a few mixes this year, including more a offbeat selection for Blowing Up The Workshop and a tape for Cav Empt under his Ondo Fudd alias, but this one was my personal favourite. It features huge tracks like Fit Siegel’s gorgeous “Carmine”, Call Super’s own “Fluenka’s Shelf” (probably my favourite track this year), the utterly stomping “Aufgang I” from Zum Goldenen Schwarm and the derivative but charming “Wearing” by CC Not. The mix is everything you want from a Call Super: intelligent, emotional and powerful.
Norman Records Podcast #12: Christina Vantzou with John Also Bennett. Another mix I found myself playing again and again was Christina Vantzou’s mix for Norman Records, done with John Also Bennett It’s a languid sequence of tracks, the most gorgeous of which is Steve Hauschildt’s “Eyelids Gently Dreaming” and the most chilling of which, of course, is Popol Vuh’s “Aguirre”. Old soundtracks meet musique concrète, heartfelt yearning meets frivolous play. It’s cleansing, soothing and beautiful, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
What was your favorite record artwork? “Where To Now? have been the most consistent label of the year for me, both musically and aesthetically, and one of their most recent releases stunned me. The cover of Manta’s Etra is arresting, stirring, welcoming. To me it seems to signal its own brilliance.”
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “I give 2015 four and a half stars out of five. It is going well with Truants, and I got to meet a lot of our team over the last few months. My plans for the next year: draw more (hire me) and listen to more Sevn Alias. I have a few nice projects going on at the moment so I will keep myself busy for the next few months at least. I am also mentally preparing for the world cup, the new season of Peaky Blinders and the next Rihanna record.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “When Justin Bieber released Purpose, Skepta’s first performance in Amsterdam and The Black Madonna at Lentekabinet. I also liked the Superlekker bungalow at Nachtiville, even though I only remember Michael Jackson tracks being looped for hours at end and I’m not sure this is what really happened.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I can usually tell how excited I am about mixes by looking at how many texts I sent to other Truants and how many of those are in all caps. I outdid myself when it came to the Truancy Volumes by Kuedo, Bicep and A Made Up Sound. Having my three favourite artists in the mix was very emotionally draining, and I’m still having a difficult time coming to terms with it. Outside of Truants – Kai Alce for Oval Space and Galcher Lustwerk live for RBMA. Also everything Bicep did this year outside their TV, the mixes I go back to most often are the After Hours mix for BBC1 they did – 40 minutes of slowed down trance edits – and Hot Tub Slamz II. When I die bury me inside a Bicep mix .flac file.”
Which new artist are you most excited about (and why)? “I stole this recommendation from Hashman Deejay, but definitely Ta-ha. From one Tuareg shawty to another, I see you. She has such an incredible voice and I can’t wait to hear more from her!”
OLI GRANT, A.W.O.L AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “2015 was the year when my work life finally more than threatened to consume time spent on music stuff – something that needs to get rebalanced next year as a priority.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “I’ve never really been around for the start of any musical movements before – I’ve missed the start of any meaningful green shoots in hiphop, jungle/ drum and bass, the beginnings and formative early FWD events of dubstep and grime. Much of my life has been spent catching up; digging retrospectively to the roots of different sounds and events. Being one of the 20 odd people at the first Boxed event in Peckham finally felt like I caught the start of a little wave, so I feel quite attached to that crew and their music. To see Boxed pack out my favourite London venue for their 2nd birthday, Autumn Street Studios, which was a big step up for them in terms of capacity, and to see them absolutely smash it was probably the most fun I’ve had in the dance this year.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I keep coming back to the mix Fracture and Chimpo put together for FACT. I have a lot of love for especially Fracture – he’s a top producer, his crate-digging and ear for a good sample is second to none, and I think that really comes through in this mix. Some of the tracks they slow down sound wicked at a lower tempo.”
MICHAEL SCALA, SOLDIER AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “It’s been my first full year out of school/university – going in and out of school is how my mind has delimited time in the year since preschool, so it’s been weird being stationary in that sense (this was the fastest year ever). I’ve found a nice and stuffy 9-5 that’s treated me relatively ok, and it will pay my rent when I decide to move (my foremost plan for 2016) – that thought and Truancy Volumes tend to keep me happy. What I’d like to see myself doing more of next year is going out and experiencing music in live settings. My job (unrelated to music industry/journalism) has been pretty constricting and alienating in the way that it’s cut away from the time I’d like to spend with music. When I move I’ll still be in Jersey but closer to NY, so I’ll have a better chance to work on that. I’m only a 40 minute bus ride away from the city as is, but sometimes I feel like I might as well be in Montana or some shit.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Cashing out on a Spotify account.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “Nothing truly jumps out as #1, which is an ode to the unfortunate amount of time I’ve been able to spend listening to one. I remember really (naturally) loving the sets that were part of the Jersey special on Boiler Room – I think that was this year. I wake up on Sundays, put on NTS and have a coffee.”
TABITHA THORLU-BANGURA, THE NOT SO SILENT MINORITY AT TRUANTS | TWITTER
How has your year been, and what are your plans for the next? “It’s been a really challenging year, in incredible ways and in fucking awful ways. Definitely spent way too much time in hospitals, not into that! But I’ve learned a lot, made some moves I needed to make… Plans for next year: world domination.”
What is your favourite music-related memory of this year? “Staycore playing Tropical Waste, haven’t danced like that in way too long. Was really grateful to be able to program some of a really cool NTS collaboration with the artist Zhang Ding at the ICA – I dreamed up a couple of brand new, totally experimental live collaborations and seeing/hearing the gambles pay off was completely exhilarating. Extra special shouts to Throwing Shade & Tapes and Lukid & Heatsick for getting up there and doing it. Also I think I can say that this year I’ve bent my radio show to my will more often than it’s bent me out of shape. I’m not always happy with it, or in the right headspace for it…but when I am and I get to share the music I love, in a way that does it justice, with people all over the world – it’s pure joy.”
What mixes did you listen to most often this year (and why)? “I don’t really listen to mixes that much, full disclosure – at least not if you don’t count radio shows going out live. Having said that I had Ony’s first NTS show on repeat for a minute, keep an eye on this guy: http://www.nts.live/shows/guests/episodes/ony-3rd-november-2015 Shit, I lied – I did listen to that DJ Metatron mix a lot. And if we are counting radio shows going out live, I listen to Rroundhere’s Saturday morning show almost every week and she amazes me every time, it’s always an education.
I did get back into listening to albums towards the end of this year; the new Bullion album is wicked – totally perfect pop music. I listened to the daring, rhythmic and abrasive new Joane Skyler album in a very serious way, and the Tuareg Shawty EP by Ta-Ha I had on repeat because of its insanely addictive, globecrossing, ride-or-die sensuality. Late pass for Larry B’s 8 Tunes By Larry B which he released for free a couple of weeks ago. If you haven’t heard it yet trust me you’re not ready. But you need it in your life, no matter what kind of music you think you’re into: http://8tunesbylarryb.tumblr.com/
Actually 2015 I got back into listening to songs on repeat, that’s really the main way I consumed music this year – selectively but obsessively. Maybe because I spent a lot of the year in love, with all the ups and downs which that state of existence comes with. Special mentions and occasional hyperlinks for: ‘Fly Higher’ by Organ Tapes, ‘Try Me’ by Dej Loaf, ‘Blue Notion’ by Laurel Halo, ‘Palm Whine’ by 5 Gate Temple/Tribe of Colin, ‘More Bite Than Bark, First Light After Dark’ by Afrikan Sciences, ‘The Lesson // Recovery’ by The Neighborhood Character, ‘Priéremix’ by Kablam, ‘Our Building On Fire’ by Trevor Lee Larson, ‘Mela’ by Ta-Ha and ‘Johnny’ by Yemi Alade.”
Which new artist are you most excited about (and why)? “I think Klein is completely incredible – a young iconoclast bringing elements of noise, ambient and experimental music together with R’n’B and gospel and so much other stuff besides. I’m in love with her fearlessness in that respect. Her voice is beautiful and versatile, and her vision, musically and otherwise, is so fucking fresh. Everyone needs to hear her music, believe it. I genuinely can’t wait to see what she does next.”
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 27 January 2016. Leave a comment
As Max Kobosil gets set to release his debut album We Grow, You Decline on Ostgut Ton towards the end of the month, it’s become abundantly clear through reading past interviews how much he values the end package not just with his music, but in everything he does. Telling XLR8R in a recent interview, the eleven tracks only make 50 percent of the album for him. It’s interesting to read that the specific reasoning behind the artwork and track names will come packaged as text that needs to be decoded via the limited vinyl edition – providing context for the release in what’s ultimately a more satisfying manner than say an interview might ever be. It’s a wonderful attention to detail that perhaps harks back to buying records on Discogs in his early teens based on their artwork alone. Now at 24, with five releases to his name and an integral part to the Ostgut Ton family, it’d be fairly easy to fall into a vicious touring cycle with no real aim in sight, though he’s confident that he’s not yet reached his personal goals and that chasing ideals that may possibly never be reached makes this all the more interesting. The contents of Truancy Volume 137 may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but those familiar with his more experimental and abstract productions on RK3 will no doubt understand the want to explore this side of him in a mix format.
Hey Max, thanks for taking out the time to do this mix and do this interview. Just want to start with asking about something I picked out from an old interview where you mention Lee Wagstaff’s RISE Gallery and its exhibitions as playing a key role in your artistic education. Was hoping you could possibly expand on this in relation to your musical career thus far? “Basically there are references to my career in music in everything I do and the RISE Gallery in the north of Neukölln has been an important place for me to discover contemporary art. I will never forget a performance I saw there by the artist Jon John, where he repeatedly drew the words “the two of us“ with his own blood that poured out of an arterial catheter from his arm, to the point where at the end of it he almost collapsed and wasn’t able to walk away. To see and think about extreme performances like this I find really inspiring and also educational for me. I met the gallery’s owner Lee Wagstaff early on. He is an amazing artist in his own right and the first ever piece of art I bought was one of his pictures. I am honoured that I have been able to work with him. He was in charge of all the technical aspects of the screen prints on the RK record sleeves and the upcoming limited edition of my album.”
This artistic education has had a major role in forming your forthcoming album We Grow, You Decline right? It’s interesting to read that you feel the tracks only make up 50 percent of the album for you and that the final package provides a context. “I think the final presentation is the body of the work, the music contained is the mind so to speak. For me as a vinyl collector, holding a record in my hands and also looking at the artwork is a whole different experience to simply downloading some audio files. Discovering the images on the sleeve, thinking about the meaning of the track titles – these are all different and essential elements of a whole package that completes a musical release.”
There’s a quote from your recent XLR8R interview which I have to pull out because I feel lots of emerging producers should read this. It’s where you mention that, “Before you release on a label, it’s really important that you’ve discovered your own sound,” and that, “releasing the wrong music on the wrong label blurs your identity.” Do you find it’s a case of producers tending to chase that label acceptance too quickly and not get to explore their productions enough? “I know of some artists who are at least a little regretful of where they released their first records, as they didn’t consider the whole picture at the time. Everyone has to decide this for themselves and people have different priorities; For me joining a label was like joining a gang or a crew. I wanted it to be a label I really wanted to work with and stay loyal to. This is also the reason why I am super selective about where else I release something, even with podcasts I try to go to selected platforms only. I don’t feel a particular rush to release as much work as possible in a short period of time. It’s important to stop and think about the steps you are taking as you are creating your own sound and story. I feel many young producers don’t lose much time reflecting on what they are doing and things just happen, sometimes maybe a little too fast.”
Expanding on that, do you feel you’ve made the transition from amateur to professional yet, or do you not even see it in that way? “Some people would say – on paper – I’m a professional artist as I make a living from performing and releasing music. I would say I’m a growing person and it just happened that I already got a lot of attention from the outside. I know I have a long way to go to realise my personal goals. This is a complex thing and I’ll probably never be totally content with my output but this is also what makes it interesting – always chasing ideals that can never be reached. It’s an endless spiral but also the way to the end can be the answer and I’m looking forward to hopefully learning more things along the way and creating better music in the future, like many artists have done before me.”
You’ve mentioned in the past that your first visit to Berghain at 18 years old made a considerable impression on you. I’m not sure if Berghain was your first clubbing experience ever but coming from a background in audio engineering, did you find hearing techno and house on a system for the first time just flipped your process in production? Have you always had a fast method to your process as well? “When you’re able to hear this music on a big sound system in an impressive room you can really feel the power of electronic music. Especially techno with its hypnotic and repeating rhythms, it’s a body thing that you need to feel in order to fully understand it. My first time at Berghain was a life changer, but it’s not all about the sound – every weekend there are a thousand people all with different approaches and they are celebrating a kind of ritual together, this is what I think is really impressive. Exploring the music in this perfect setting confirmed my early ideas about how I wanted to produce and develop my own sound.”
You played your live set debut at Fabric back in December 2013 and you’ll be performing live there again next month as well going b2b with Answer Code Request. What have you learnt about your live set in this time period? “I’m more used to playing in front of a big crowd now and I am less nervous which comes with routine. My setup hasn’t changed, I still like the way I use my laptop as a digital tape machine. All the different tracks like the hihats, kickdrum, percussions, synth etc are going to an external 16-channel mixer where I arrange the tracks live. I combine this setup with external effects and a synthesiser.”
You’ve mentioned about being pretty selective with the gigs you choose and that you’re hoping to lock-in some more experimental shows with a more concert vibe, possibly even some sit down shows. What are you finding is attracting you to these types of gigs at the moment, and who are some other live acts that you look up to in this area? “I just like the idea of presenting my music to an audience who aren’t focused on dancing. When I discovered live sets by the likes of Alva Noto or Mika Vainio I was impressed that a lot of people in the audience appeared to be paying a lot of attention to what they were seeing and hearing and I could see the emotion in the artist’s faces. It was very different to what I was used to from watching big concert events on TV where it’s all about a polished show event. An intimate show where you can establish a real connection between yourself and the audience is something I would like to achieve.”
From looking up past interviews I’ve really enjoyed reading about your attention to detail over things like catalog numbers and engravings and I feel despite not being a physical object you’ve still approached the mix with a similar outlook. What can you tell us about the mix? “Thanks for the kind words – I included some not-so-well-known parts from one of the three RK releases. I wasn’t really sure about going so far left-field with this podcast but I trust that people following my work will be able to understand this side of me and hope they will enjoy the mix.”
What else can we expect from you this year after the album drops? “Currently I am working on my label and intend to present some new artists that will join the R – Label Group inner circle this year. I have been producing a lot of music too but will consider my moves where, how and when I will release this material carefully and this remains to be seen.”
Kobosil – We Grow, You Decline is out on Ostgut Ton on January 29th, 2016.
Words by Riccardo Villella, 19 January 2016. 1 comment
For producers, it must be fairly difficult to look back at your early productions or debut release and be able to have a critical stance on them, especially in contrast to where you’ve possibly come from since then. In a small chat with this week’s Truancy Volume mixer, Happa, he is comfortable in admitting his early productions were just something he needed to get out of his system as an angsty teenager. “I went through an industrial techno phase where I was just trying to make the hardest song ever.” he describes. In an interview with XLR8R he’s also quick to mention that if it wasn’t for great management holding him back in the most crucial way then he would have surely taken every offer from every label that got in touch at the time. This has culminated in a modest discography that’s seen Happa slowly explore multiple avenues with his productions, as well as collaborative efforts with Manni Dee under the alias Habits of Hate. Slowing things down after his Boomkat Editions release in 2013, Happa happily mentions he feels he’s reached a place where he’s settled and finally ready to share and release new music.
This has recently taken form as an ongoing 3 part series on his label PT/5 that he runs with his manager Dan Foat. A clear fan of rave culture Happa tells us that PT/5 is named after Part V of the Criminal Justice Act of ’94, which gave police the power to shutdown illegal raves defined as a “gathering on land in the open air of 100 or more persons (whether or not trespassers) at which amplified music is played during the night”. The Act singled out “music (that) includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. Some of the forthcoming material is a couple of years old, some brand new, some that’s been floating around for a bit that you might have heard at the end of his sets or played by James Blake on his 1-800 Dinosaur radio show.
When questioned about forthcoming music and his productions he stresses that “I’m not scared about releasing music that no one will like but I like the idea of having characters like Quasimoto – I don’t want to be just a techno producer. I want to do more. Working with other musicians is such an important thing for me and it’s so exciting – I’d love to make some weird grime as well. Imagine Danny Weed meets Onoehtrix Point Never type stuff. I love Arca and Jesse’s visual work as well as artists such as Grouper – she’s one of my favourite musicians.” With all this in mind one of the most exciting bits of news surrounding Happa, is the production credit on FKA Twigs’ M3LL155X for one of the standout tracks of the release, ‘In Time’. It’s a wonderful opportunity which we’re hoping he explores further in 2016.
Clocking in at just under an hour, Truancy Volume 136 is a perfect insight into Happa and his possible directions for 2016. Here’s what he had to say on the mix. “I actually borrowed one of my mates USB controllers to record it, as I wanted to show off a few unreleased bombs, and I only have Technics at home. Bit easier to mix with too. So yeah, as I said there are some new bits in there from the lovely Chevel, Metrist, Bruce and more. I also wanted to showcase a few of my current favourites in the stranger corners of the dance music world, like M.E.S.H and Prostitutes. Then to round it off, I included a few bangers here and there.”
Happa – PT 1 is out now to buy with PT 2 coming very soon
Words by Koyejo Oloko, 14 January 2016. Leave a comment
In some ways, the sound of John Howes, who makes music simply under his surname Howes, is a fair reflection of Manchester where he resides having moved there from Newcastle for university. It’s pretty much always overcast or raining, but within its sodden, post-Industrial shell lies a heartbeat of culture and a city bound by its love of music. When we managed to catch Howes perform his analogue live show at the Eagle Inn in Salford a few months back, a red brick pub which sits oddly beside a modern day industrial estate, our interest was piqued. His music, while unquestionably in the realms of drone and ambient, has flickers of techno and club music throughout. With his fantastic LP 3.5 Degrees coming out on Melodic Records on 15th January, we decided to have a chat to John to see how the record came about and he kindly sent us over ‘Zeroset’, one of the record’s choice cuts.
Tell me about your musical background/influences. “When I was about 12 or 13 my sister would bring back CDs from uni, and she played this Bugged Out! Classics compilation in the car and it was just full of total weapons of the time. That one compilation kicked off so many different strands of stuff. There’s some really cheesy tracks on it looking back but it had “The Sky Was Pink (Holden Remix)” and that was my favourite track for about 10 years. When you’re a kid you listen to some shit hand-me-down music, but I was pretty lucky that mine was quite good. That led me to all sorts and by the time I was 14 or so I guess I started to form my own taste. By 15 or 16 I was rinsing albums every day and digging through Discogs and linking up artists, labels and discovering loads.”
So how did you get towards where you are now, with the more ambient side of things? “[William Basinki’s] Disintegration Loops was one of the big ones I caught onto then and that lead me onto Kranky and Tim Hecker and you hear those kinds of sounds creeping into club music. By the time I was 18 and I was going out a bit and it all sort of fell into place. Being in Manchester at that time was pretty good because you’d go to Joshua Brooks and you’d have Joy Orbison and Objekt play within two weeks of each other. I was aware of Ostgut Ton but I just listened to stuff like Shed’s albums at home. Then I went to their night in Store Street at the Warehouse Project and that was the first time I’d really heard that stuff in a club. Hearing that made me start making house/techno and I started to DJ occasionally which lead to the making of the tracks on the first 12″ for Melodic. I’d go to these great nights then you’d go home and listen to really weird stuff with your mates. One of my favourite records from that time is [An Electric Storm LP] White Noise. I found myself getting more interested in the more experimental stuff rather than straight up club tracks just from listening to those weirder records after going out.”
Let’s talk about your forthcoming LP 3.5 Degrees. How did these influences lead you to that? “After the first 12″ I was getting contacted by labels saying that if I made a really good club record they’d put it out. So I spent ages trying to make this perfect record but I just couldn’t do it and I began to get really frustrated. I’d lost interest in most club music by then and took a lot more pleasure in just making stuff to listen to at home. A lot of the tracks on the LP are just a result of me coming home from work on a Friday night being really, really stressed out and to chill out I’d just make modular patches. I’d start patching something on Friday, switch if off and go to bed and start working again on it on Saturday morning and see it through the end of the day and by the end of the weekend I’d have this one big idea for a track. Then because I was so familiar with the patch on Sunday night I’d record five minutes exploring it and then 6 of the 8 tracks on the record are just those recordings. They weren’t made with the intention of making an album or anything, it was just made to chill out and get away from everything you know? There’s so many moments where everything links up and I’d just leave it playing and enjoy listening for a bit. It’s just a completely different process from trying to make a really good club record. You’re just sitting there programming drums and then you EQ them and do all this shit and you’ve got this perfectly compressed EQ’ed drum sound but there’s no idea for a track. The way I make stuff now it’s constantly running, it’s constantly on the move. You don’t have time to question yourself and refine things you just do the best you can. It’s made purely for my own pleasure and if other people enjoy it too then that’s amazing because there’s a kind of direct connection there between my instinctive taste and the listener’s – rather than creating a perfected version of an idea, this stuff has all my failures and mistakes on show. That’s why it’s really nice to hear when people like the record, because this is just stuff that plays in my house when I’m doing chores or whatever.”How was the record produced? Is it mostly analogue? “Yeah it’s nearly all done analogue with some Max/MSP bits on certain tracks, that stuff allows me to add extra LFOs or sequencers when I can’t afford more modules. I’ve been refining this setup for years and I’ve got this really personalised system. The box that I used for my live show is what most of the tracks on the album were made on. It’s got 3 voices but only one sequencer so you have to be creative with the patch to get around those limits. Most of the tracks come from semi-random setups where you instruct each voice but it’s also got a degree of flexibility or its own decision making system patched in. One of the reasons I like making music in this way is that you lose control of certain parameters which you can choose to work with or against. It’s cool because you can create this really complex music making device on the spot and you decide which bits you want to influence and which bits you let go. I did the live show [supporting Loscil] and that was the first time I’d played a live set like that, but after the gig I’d practised with that system so much I got sick of it I dismantled it. That live set was recorded and it’s hopefully coming out on videogamemusic in March.”
How long did it actually take for you to get your head around all the analogue stuff? Do you find it more straightforward to work with? “For me the focus isn’t on the analogue aspect of the equipment its more about personalising a work flow to fit exactly with my way of thinking. For me Max and the modular works best because the ideas I want to explore aren’t possible with most plugins or normal synths. If you gave me someone else’s synth I wouldn’t know what to do with it and at the same time if you tried to sell my synth as it is nobody else would want it, only me. It’s set up basically to suit exactly how I want to approach making sounds. Modular stuff is a lot more accessible than it used to be but if you start out by going on forums or whatever you just end up building this system that isn’t tailoured to you. For me the reason to get into it is so that you find your own way of exploring your own individual ideas and expressing yourself – something I can’t do on keys or other instruments.”
You said you had that tape coming out on videogamemusic, have you got anything else lined up? “Well me and my mates do this label called Cong Burn Waves. We share a studio in Salford and every weekend we go in there and record stuff, we just get loads of amps and mics and synths and pedals and stuff and just bash out tunes and record. We had Dave McLean come in last weekend and play sax and jam and hopefully that’ll lead to something. It’s not like a band or anything but we just make music together and put it out however we want – like the mixtape or some compilations we’re getting together at the minute. The whole reason for doing it is my close mates are making such good stuff and the tunes were just sat on hard drives. None of us make similar sounding stuff really, but we’re all totally into each other’s ideas despite having quite different tastes. Like there’s club tracks and drone stuff and full band recordings – but they all have the same approach in which is everyone doing their own thing and supporting each other in whatever we decide to do next.”
3.5 Degrees is out on Melodic Records on 15th January.
Words by Antoin Lindsay, 06 January 2016. Leave a comment