Moodymann; now there’s a name that needs no introduction, but just in case let’s talk for a minute about the respect and influence a name like that holds. Known for his own brand of Detroit chauvinism and confrontational stance in a typically non-confrontational electronic environment, Kenny Dixon Junior ain’t no one to fuck with. As label head of self-named KDJ and Mahogani Music, his Detroit Strong roster knows a thing or two about house and techno and knows when to spot talent when they hear it. All of which brings us to Dan Shake, otherwise known as Daniel Rose-Weir, and his lucky (yet very well deserved) big break. The London-based artist has done what literally no other has done before him and landed his debut release on Moodymann’s prestigious label with no Detroit heritage and no Detroit residency: quite a feat for a man that went to see 3 Chairs at Dimensions Festival, handed Kenny Dixon Jr. himself a CD, and came out of it with a new fan. We spoke to Dan about the pressures of such a signing, his influences, and when Shreddies used to give out good shit in their cereal boxes.
Stream: Dan Shake – 3AM Jazz Club (Mahogani Music)
Hey Daniel, how are you? What have you been up to lately? “Hey Jess, I’m not too bad, thanks. I’ve just had the previews put online of my debut release so everything’s been based around that recently, the response has been pretty dope. How are you?” Great, thanks! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? “Erm, I’ve never been good at this question. I just do what any other 21-year-old Londoner does nowadays.”
You went to University in Leeds and have now moved back to London, is that right? Why the move back? “Yeah, sort of, I dropped out. University was fun and all but I’m not a studier. I didn’t want to waste a ridiculous amount of money on something I wasn’t really going to benefit from. I bought a load of records instead.” Yeah, I seem to feel like I wasted three good years at university more and more each day. Did you go out into the world of work? “I worked in events for a while, and now I work in music management. I help look after Submotion Orchestra and a couple of others, it’s pretty fun.”
There is a kind of joke in Leeds that “everyone in Leeds is a DJ” (not a particularly clever joke, but not altogether untrue). How did you start making music? “Haha, it’s definitely not untrue. The ratio must be one to three. I actually only started DJing a month or two ago when Mahogani got in touch, but I’ve been making music since [the age of] around 13. I played drums for a while, which didn’t really work out, and then one day got a free music making program called Ejay Extreme in a box of Shreddies. One of those ones where you arrange a basic selection of ready-made loops and call it a tune. I guess it sprouted from there. Maybe without Shreddies I would have never been signed to Mahogani?” I remember those! What a beautiful idea, maybe there’s a PR stunt in there too. How’re you finding DJing, do you have any favourites that would never leave your crate? “Ha, maybe. DJing’s a lot of fun, can’t wait to start playing out properly. U – I isn’t leaving my crate any time soon”.
Stream: U – I (ManMakeMusic)
Your debut is released on Moodymann’s label: Mahogani Music, I hear the story of how that came about is pretty interesting? “Yeah I guess it’s a pretty old-school way of getting signed. I was watching 3 Chairs backstage at Dimensions Festival and briefly got chatting to Kenny, handed him my CD, and three weeks later I received an email asking if he could have them (… I said yes).” Was this the first time you had openly pushed your tracks and do you have any tips for how aspiring producers can get their music noticed? “Yeah, I’ve never really pushed my music to anyone, it was a spur of the moment thing. My girlfriend made me burn a couple of CDs while we were out there in Croatia. So my tips probably won’t help… get lucky?” Maybe a persuasive and supportive partner too! I think that takes a serious amount of guts though, kudos! You must have been confident in your music? “The partner thing helps yeah, I was quite happy with the tracks though, at the end of the day I had nothing to lose.”
Mahogani Music is a pretty prolific label to have your debut release on, congrats! Kenny Dixon Jr. is a Detroit House Don and operates a roster of some Motor City talent, do you feel anxious about how it will be received? “Thank you, and definitely! It still blows my mind to be on a label along side such inspiring producers, Dilla for one. There’s an extremely high standard of music on Mahogani, but there’s been a great response from DJs we’ve sent it to. I hope people are feelin’ it.”
For sure! Everyone has quite an individual process for producing, what’s yours? “My process changes from time to time, I’ve made a lot of weird shit, which I create in a completely different process to the way I make my house, if you want to call it that. I guess there isn’t a set process, I find my best work is when I have no clue of what I’m about to make, I just go with it until it makes sense.” You’ve wavered before at calling it ‘House’, are you keen not to be pigeonholed? “I think when you tell someone you make house, they tend to think of music that’s nothing like mine. My music is such a blended collection of genres anyway.”
Stream: Dan Shake – Thinkin’ (Mahogani Music)
Who and what are your musical influences? And are there any artists you want to shout out or tell us to look out for? “There’s way too many, my biggest is probably Dilla, he changed the way I think about music. Floating Points always inspires me with his releases, and I get a lot of drum and percussion influence from African music like Tony Allen and Fella Kuti. But a good friend of mine, Mali Michael, is definitely one to look out for, a very different sound to me but has an amazing voice.” Apart from Mahogani Music, obviously, are there any other labels you’re feeling right now? “Ermm, Wild Oats just put out a massive release from Jay Daniel. Eglo are always putting out amazing music. Melbourne Deepcast… the list goes on.”
Yes! Also the Jay Daniel ‘Scorpio Rising’ EP was great. What is your dream collaboration? “Oh, that’s tough. Of course I’d love to collab with Kenny or MCDE, but probably an amazing musician who’s completely different to me like George Duke, I think we’d get more creative that way.” And finally, a Truants fave, what is your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “I’m all about the rum & ginger, that’s my drink. Last time I danced was watching Sticky at my mates night Brotherhood Soundsystem in Leeds, you should go some time!”
You can pre-order the limited 12″ of A1. 3 AM Jazz Club b1. Thinkin’ here.
Words by Jess Melia, 07 March 2014. Leave a comment
Solens Arc arrives at an enthralling time for the techno album; the most widely-discussed LPs seem to have had at least a vague direction, from Actress’ inner city transliterations to Perc’s lamentative narration of politics and addiction to power. Spit approached the dark corners of ‘civilisation’, and the album was doubly en vogue due to the shabby analogue sound Ron Morelli himself has shepherded as the scene’s spotlight illuminated his label. On the other hand, Holden’s The Inheritors was more of the mad-scientist analogue variety rather than gritty-gumshoe, with looser bearings of an archaeological fashion as opposed to directly achieving a defined objective. Kangding Ray, the alias of David Letellier, came from a background of post-rock to contribute to Rastar-Noton’s minimal, experimental pop aesthetic though his mechanic creations are somewhat rusted this time round – Solens Arc is Letellier taking a step to the outside. True to Raster-Noton’s philosophy in a release as a holistic entity, Solens Arc is a wondrously literal affair for an album with minimal and unintelligible vocals. The press release introduces it as “a stone thrown, just to watch it fly” and indeed the sleeve depicts several parabolae adorning an overcast landscape. The tracklist itself is quartered into different arcs, each a chapter to the album’s overarching series, matching to the four sides of the double-LP (very thoughtful). Each arc differs in structure and composition, though all slot into Letellier’s concept of firing frequencies into the air and following wherever they’d take him, letting his tools take point.
With four threads of autonomous existence, just listening to the arcs in their order on the tracklist is reductive. Instead, each piece tackles independent themes of the overall voyage with an internal fluidity only. The first thread of the yarn mostly considers movement. It begins with rattling pulses grinding against a drowsy kick like gears set in motion after an age of slumber. The snoring doesn’t seem to halt despite the waking of “Serendipity March”, with a sparse vocal sample that literally breathes life into the beat. By the end of the arc such sluggishness is long absent from memory thanks to the first encounter of something remotely dancefloor. Even “The River”, the catalyst that bridges “Serendipity March” and “Evento”, is kept short, a mercurial glint of crystallised, sharp-synth sunshine with instant impact. Whilst the track is used to utmost efficiency in the first arc, its reprieve peels open the second arc with patience. Less focused on progressing and more preoccupied with immediate surroundings, “Blank Empire” takes the time to explore what “Evento” might have been. Shuffles of percussion that would sound right at home on Sunklo skip over a blaring, droning buzz, wrapped in oscillating skidmarks that veer in and out of focus before the atmosphere is escaped and all turbulence dissipates. This zenith, “L’envol” (The Flight), shimmers with arpeggiations, a moment to stop and stare and be overwhelmed and feel fulfilled. It’s followed up by the third arc which possesses the most sinister start so do feel free to hesitate swapping plates – there’s no turning back now.
Stream: Kangding Ray – Black Empire (Raster-Noton)
The final arcs share yin-yang symbioticism contemplating the unknown and then the known at a molecular level, just as the first two arcs are counterparts in racing through life and stopping to smell the flowers. “Apogee” is the piece which arc three revolves around, astronomically referring to the stage where an entity in orbit is furthest away from that which anchors it. The track is all synths, whirring and hissing and emanating solemn, ambient significance. It’s flanked by a straight-faced, abrasive club expedition with kicks of reduced surface impact and a faintly twinkling dial loop, as well as “History of Obscurity”, a cautious plunge into the dark side of the moon with chimes gradually refracting through it into nothingness. The three pieces that form the final sequence scrutinise the mechanical aspect of tracing trajectories. “Transitional Ballistics” refers to studying the window where a bullet leaves the muzzle of the gun and its propelling forces of gas disperse into the environment – as a track it really delves into the bowels of machinations, motoring between percussive textures as a menacing rattle looms overhead. Even the sound of water dripping onto cold steel enters after a point, a precursor to the delicate chords that begin to flourish towards the end. “Crystal” is so near it seems distant, a sparkling loop reminiscent of Tim Hecker’s Virgins albeit in a space opera context.
Stream: Kangding Ray – History of Obscurity (Raster-Noton)
Solens Arc draws to a close under ambiguous circumstances, spurred by the most organic drum inflections present on the album. Concluding section “Son” is dressed in a mutated sci-fi melody that could have been lifted from the 90s, and its by no means the first instance as the entire release implicitly hints at past musings, more future-retroism than retro-futurism. Gazing at the trail Solens Arc leaves in the sky is undoubtedly enjoyable, however the ripples eventually fade and we’re left to wonder where things actually went; Letellier’s targetless endeavours result in no ultimate closure, though this certainly proposes we question our approach not just to creating music but to listening too. Besides, each individual arc had their own closing and there’s no implication they account for the entire path of the stone thrown. Regardless of the inexplicit ending, there’s no sense of unfulfillment due to Letellier’s hybrid compromise between retaining structure and resigning to whim. A common pitfall for instinct-led albums is a lack of cohesiveness to glue together an abundance of ideas, but by approaching this style from a place of discipline, Letellier’s album is that much more effective, poignant and graceful. Solens Arc. Just watch it fly.
Kangding Ray’s Solens Arc LP is out now on Raster-Noton. Buy the double LP here.
Words by Tayyab Amin.
Words by Truants, 05 March 2014. Leave a comment
“The ‘Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.” William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, follows the life of protagonist, Case, who is rescued from drug addiction by street samurai, Molly. Gibson, who actually coined the term cyberpunk, when talking about his artistic vision, said that “modern Japan simply was cyberpunk.” In ’80s Tokyo, video game arcades speckled streets, anime coloured television screens and imaginations. Activism was rife, student-led, socialist and anti-authoritarian. The arts scene was similarly excited. Artists reassessed what art should be doing. The skyline was a knife, a bubble, a curve, dumpy, lived in, rockety, and repeated over. This was a city in flux. Landscapes – social, technological, artistic, architectural – were shifting temporally: far into the future. This era gave rise to Tokyo natives, Yellow Magic Orchestra, a band that quickly became considered one of electronic music’s key innovators. Its three principal members are considered pioneers of digital music making and are credited with influencing almost everything, from ambient music to hip-hop to game scores. While their technological innovation and international impact must be praised, we cannot ignore the way they represented their own unique society through their music.
Harumi Hosono, Ryuchi Sakamoto and Yukikiro Takahashi spent the ‘70s dipping their toes into each other’s pools and finally united in ’78. Representative of their surroundings, their first album, Yellow Magic Orchestra, released that same year, is one of painfully playful Gameboy flips of classic riffs. The black-note oriental scale is hammered into a new context. For their sound, all clacks and beeps and vending machine rhythms, made with then cutting-edge equipment – samplers, sequencers and drum machines – the band remain heralded as a group who mapped out music’s cartography. The way noises are layered, stacked up and thrown together in their tracks is an imitation of their architectural surroundings: the carefully constructed but clumsy-looking chaos of Tokyo’s skyline. But it’s all held up by a clear dedication to groove – a heartbeat, maybe – and within five years of formation, Yellow Magic Orchestra had released seven studio albums, only one of which dipped outside the Top 5 in Japan. The band split in 1984. Even though they later admitted that hating each other was the reason for it, at the time they used the Japanese phrase, 散開 (pron. sankai), meaning spreading out, instead of splitting up.
When the band reunited in 1993, they released another album, Technodon. Dedicated to mature house grooves and techno mechanisms, it evidences a more international awareness of and abidance by the rules of contemporary dance music, more stable and across-the-board pleasing. The album cover evidences their playful attitude towards technology. By 1993, technology was no longer only a device for music-making – it was an aesthetic device, too. Flipping a boring ownership issue on its head, Technodon was released under a new moniker: NOT YMO or
YMO. This focus on typography is a metafictional computer joke wherein the band draws attention to its form; it is a cluster of three humans overwritten, or struck over, by technology.
Our favourite track, “Floating Away”, features entirely drum-machine-created jazzy, tribal rhythms that relax at the back of the track while obnoxious spy-movie synths and video game blips propel you forward. Lyrically, it is descriptive of ’80s Japanese culture – or, at least, a vision of it. And who narrates the track? Aforementioned author, William Gibson. His twang, smooth, soothing and lackadaisical, narrates your scene: “Broken shackle / You could look down / See the water between your toes / Bare concrete, empty bottles (wrapped in plastic) / A moped against a vending machine / Startlingly organic.” The conditional, “could“, expresses that technological uncertainty and excitement. It is a positive vision of an unfixed world shattering beneath your feet, of switching landscapes, of technology upon technology upon technology. It is cyberpunk.
And thus, this collaboration between Japanese supergroup and American-Canadian author is is a sweet combination of cultures celebrating their common agenda: to use, represent and influence future with art. Ironically, by 1993, the near-future that cyberpunk’s literature and YMO’s music sought to represent in the eighties was here. The genre’s heyday had been, gone and arrived. “Floating Away” is, thus, a nostalgic track. It is nostalgic for a past that looked to the future; a past that viewed the years to come with enthusiasm.
We’ve come into 2014 following the few years where ‘analogue’ seems to be one of the most ubiquitous words in underground electronic music. Opal Tapes has been one of the most visible proponents of analogue music in recent times and following a prolific year in which they released no less than 20 tapes, usually released in batches of 4 or 5 simultaneously, you’d be forgiven for having missed out on a few of their stronger releases. Michigan native and London-based Karen Gwyer undoubtedly created one such release, her album Kiki The Wormhole, which followed on a few months after her debut album on No Pain In Pop, Needs Continuum. The latter Gwyer recorded in the months building up to the birth of her son and resulted in a warm, woozy and understandably personal record. The former, as the name would suggest, is a sound distinctly steeped in the space imagery that so prominently influenced the Detroit masters Gwyer is indebted to.
For her latest EP New Roof, Gwyer returns to No Pain In Pop with the lengthier compositions as seen on display on her Opal Tapes release. “Lay Claim To My Grub” sees the slow-burning affection of Needs Continuum left behind for a more immediate and urgent approach. Clocking in at over 15 minutes the track ushers in a more overt techno influence but still retains much of the woozy psychedelic qualities as displayed in her earlier works. The restlessness of “Lay Claim…” is it’s most endearing feature, with head-space filling synth backed with the forceful beat reminiscent of early 90s British techno which eventually subsides leaving the melody to ease the track out. “Nail Bars of The Apocalypse” is an appropriately named (relatively) short interlude which is a downcast beatless organ affair and serves as a suitable break before the imposing 17 minute “Missisissipippi”, the moodiest of trio. Drawing more influence from drone and ambient techno than the first track, “Missisissipippi” trawls with the atmospheric murk reminiscent of Voices from the Lake and moving into vague psychedelic dubbiness which recalls fellow No Pain In Pop-er Forest Swords. The synth line which permeates the entirety of the track ultimately provides a constant and intimidating reference point as other sections come and go through the length of the track providing an interesting contrast with the intimate Needs Continuum by developing a significantly more isolating sound.
Whilst techno has undoubtedly influenced Gwyer’s past works her association with No Pain In Pop indicates a more home-based intention behind them. New Roof with “Lay Claim…” on the contrary provides us with Gwyer’s most overt attempt at creating something with more of an eye to the club. Recent live shows which seen her play with Opal Tapes labelmates in Berlin’s Panorama Bar show, along with New Roof, a willingness on Gwyer’s part to engage further with dance scene. The darker aspects of her sound as explored in the second and third tracks show the breadth of Gwyer’s influence and may hint towards what further directions she can take her music. There may be far from a dearth of artists who are currently techno influenced analogue music but New Roof shows that Gwyer has a greater level of depth and consideration in her music than many of her contemporaries.
Words by Antoin Lindsay
Words by Truants, 03 March 2014. Leave a comment
You can’t throw a rock in a club these days without hitting a Kerri Chandler track, or one that sounds strikingly similar. While it’s no revelation that producers are strip mining the sounds of the 1990s, his brand of buoyant New Jersey House is in high demand. While his imitators are legion, there’s only one Kerri Chandler. For those who need an introduction, Kerri “Kaoz” Chandler cut his teeth working at recording studios and DJing at the legendary Club Zanzibar in Newark, New Jersey. Producing for other artists led to putting out tracks under his own name, and releases like Atmosphere have become a blueprint for anyone looking to recreate the magic of the early 90s tri-state house scene. Not one to be confined to a particular time, place, or genre Kerri recently launched the sublabel MadTech as a platform for young guns who put their own twist on the 4×4 template. Ahead of the release of his new mix album Watergate 15 and the re-issue of Trionisphere, one of his most sought after records, we had a quick digital sit down with the man himself.
Stream: Kerri Chandler – Keep Me Inside
Hey Kerri! We’re big fans here at Truants! For those who might not be familiar, mind telling us a bit about your background? How did you get into music, and what do you imagine you’d be doing without it? “I come from a musical background. My family has always been full of musicians, singers, DJ’s – I’ve been around music my entire life. But if I wasn’t doing music I’d probably be in a lab somewhere – science is my other love. I’ve always had a thoughtful approach to anything, I try to figure stuff out from physics to mechanics which of course also includes sound. The fact that my dad was a DJ gave me a great playground as a kid.”
You seem to spend a lot of time in London, are you based there or do you still call New Jersey home? “London’s always been kind to me. I played my first international show at MOS in 1991 and haven’t looked back since. I have a lot of wonderful friends here so its always great to be here. Truth be told, I live on airplanes it seems – I spend more time there than anywhere else.”
A lot of people venerate, and even try to re-create, the club scene in the New York area during the late 80s and early 90s. What do you think is so timeless about the music produced then? Also, is there anything that the revival is missing? More Zima maybe? “I suppose that if you weren’t there, hearing the stories about the Loft, Paradise Garage, Warehouse, etc its all very nostalgic. We had a great time then but I love everything that is going on now as far as a revival- its great. But it’s missing the vocals. There should be more vocal tracks, more singers and more live performances in my opinion. I really love that people are being creative and using so many different avenues to create but I feel that a lot of newcomers are missing out on an opportunity to really take it to the next level by learning how work with singers and work with vocals.”
We had no idea until recently that you’ve done vocals on many of your own tracks. Your voice is great! Have any tips for a producer who wants to take their vocals into their own hands? “Thank you. I never considered myself a singer, I feel I’m more of a vocalist. I write my life’s story and let it out through the music. Every song I’ve put my voice to has a real story behind it. The big thing is if producers can express what they are trying to achieve to singers it can go a long way.”
Stream: Kerri Chandler – Rain
We trust you were at Zanzibar quite often. We’ve gotta ask, what was the craziest night there? “The opening night. I was there a lot over the years but nothing topped that.” [Editors note: Kerri didn’t go into much detail but this article does and we’re inclined to agree that nothing could top live tigers.]
Through MadTech you’ve released records from a number of up and coming artists. Is there anything you’ve learned from the newest crop of producers? “I’ve learned to do what I’ve always done and trust my instincts and that’s what’s working for now. We have some really exciting new material coming up and I’m glad these guys are being given the same opportunities I was fortunate enough to enjoy. As for what I’ve learned- I learn so much from so many people that its hard to name any one thing.” On that note, who are some new talents we should keep our eye on? “As for new, Voyeur, Citizen, Krystal Klear, No Artificial Colors, Disclosure, Steve Mills, Detroit Swindle, Huxley and pretty much all my family at Circo Loco. There’s just far too many people whose music I love to name them all.”
Are there any things haven’t changed since you began DJing and Producing? Are there constants? “Obviously we’re enjoying more options as DJ’s in the booth – the technology has become more portable and more powerful. I work very closely with Native Instruments and recently released a production pack for their iMaschine App. Its something I was using a lot in airport lounges, planes, trains and…automobiles. I can then transfer it over to my computer once I get back to the studio. In terms of musical style, I simply play the way I always have – I play what I feel, whatever my mood dictates at the time and hope that the crowd enjoys what I do.”
We recently saw a dance floor lose their minds to your remix of The System, ourselves included, what’s one of your earlier tunes that never leaves your crate? ”Track 1!”
Stream: Kerri Chandler – Track 1
Spending as much time in clubs as you do must be exhausting. Any tips for younger DJs on how to avoid a burnout? “I don’t party when I’m not working. If I’m not DJing then I’m rarely in the club, but when I am, I give it everything! I always give my personal professional best and remember that people have spent their hard earned cash on a ticket to see me… I don’t want to let them down! Otherwise I’m more than likely in the studio or having some quiet time at the beach before going into the studio. The only real advice I can give is to pace themselves – not overdo it and to take some quiet time out for themselves once in a while.”
Finally, we’ve heard you have a season pass to Six Flags. What ride should we make sure hit next time we go? “Kingda Ka! Its the tallest coaster in the U.S. And the Superman coaster – you’re strapped in standing and coming down you end up laying belly down and you’re flying like you’re Superman.”
Watergate 15 and Trionosphere are out now on Watergate Records and King Street Sounds.
Words by Stephanie Neptune, 28 February 2014. Leave a comment