Functions of the Now XI: Air Max ’97

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After a heavyweight Functions of the Now entry by Bloom we now shift our gaze back down under, where Air Max ’97 has been hard at work creating new spaces and possibilities for the club. With an open-ended, exploratory process, Air Max’s work hones in on lush texture and rhythmic imbalance, on the dancefloor its felt as confronting, challenging yet undeniably fun and playful. These themes were fully explored in his label-debut “Progress and Memory” on Liminal Sounds, though traces can be found in his earlier self-released material (“Recurse”, a sleepy-eyed wake-n-bake soundtrack, is a personal favourite). On January 26 we’ll be taken deeper down the rabbit hole with his follow-up Liminal EP “Fruit Crush”, 3 tracks of twinkling dancefloor magic in which his unique approach fully crystalises. These dense rhythmachines are instantly recognizable as Air Max’s, they are a Galapagos island of images and iterations. Again we find only a tangential connection to grime, an admiration of its sonic and spatial magic and a knowing respect for its historic and current communities, contexts and localities. The impact of grime is felt as sonic philosophy, as process and possibility.

In partnership with DJs Aspartame and Rap Simons, Air Max 97 runs Melbourne’s club ESC, where a growing community of pluralistic aliens regularly join together to experience their particular brand of ‘oblique club trax’. I made the trip down earlier this year to pray at the alter of Total Freedom, a night that won’t easily be forgotten. What is amazing about club ESC is it is a space of true collective euphoria and embodied resistance, those qualities so often spoken about but so rarely achieved in nightlife. The night’s name references those promises of disembodiment that arises out of both club space and digital existence – at points during the night the audience is blanketed with smoke thick enough to provide a transcendental cocoon, inviting them into nothingness, into total freedom. Air Max 97’s bent noises and utopic club nights both encourage us to move differently, to break two-step hegemony.

As always there’ve been some amazing happenings in the FOTN sphere, the most devastating being the anthemic Gage and Kevin Jz Prodigy collab on Crazylegs. We need barely even mention “Bad Bitch” (read Tayab’s excellent review here), but it perfectly encapsulates what is wonderful and exciting about club music at the moment. Another flowering convergence can be found in DJ J Heat’s remix of M.E.S.H.’s “Scythians”, in which M.E.S.H.’s lush design is reconfigured into a floating Jersey requiem. The rest of the remix EP, with contributions from TT faves Lotic, Logos and Grovestreet, is also essential. Berlin-based Soda Plains issued a deadly single on the excellent Black Ocean, a pair of heavily melodic weapons primed for freaky dancefloors. Elsewhere Imaab’s contribution to Trax Couture’s World Series offers a set of gritty industrial drum trax par excellence, if you need more kicks in your life this is the place to find them. Also highly recommended is OMAAR’s EP (and everything else, really) on Mexico’s NAAFI imprint. For us NAAFI are one of the most exciting crews around at the moment, their mix of high-sheen club vibes and the homegrown rave sounds of Mexico and the surrounding area has added a whole new element to this soundscape. Check out their PIRATA compilation for further evidence of their seam work.

We also caught up with Air Max on Skype for a lengthy chat – check it below. We’ll be back in 2015 and hope you’ve enjoyed 2k14 as much as we have, see you on the other side! We’re so thankful that it’s “Wanna Party” that fittingly takes us out for the year.

Hey Air Max! I’m gonna kick off with a question that Martin Blackdown often starts his interviews with which I think is quite cool: where is your head at, musically speaking, at the moment? “What do you mean exactly, like in terms of my production or what I’m getting into?” I guess both and how they interrelate. Like for me I could tell when, for instance, you had heard DJ Lag and then hearing bits and pieces sprinkled throughout your stuff. “Yeah, I feel indebted to a lot of Gqom stuff at the moment, that’s been super inspiring for me. But it’s funny because I was playing some SA stuff while Lawson Aspartame (of club ESC) was around, and he was like “what’s this new Air Max ‘97 shit?”, haha. So I feel like me becoming aware of that music was really timely because I was already heading into that vibe a bit. Certainly the Nidia Minaj remix has got a strong Gqom feel, but I feel like a lot of that was already present in Nidia’s Tarraxo rhythms. I’ve been chatting a little with some Durban people and I’ve got a few loose plans to collab, we’ll see how that goes. I love that vibe, it’s so dark and percussive. Melody is very restrained and there’s a lot of tension and a very masterful use of a reduced palette.” It feels like its constantly about to explode. “That bpm is really good for me at the moment as well, I find myself playing a lot around 128. I’ve really been getting into lower bpms and playing around with some different vibes, some hypnotic energy rather than straight up 135 aerobics!”

What about the production side? “Production-wise I’ve just been finishing these two EPs. The Liminal Sounds follow up is called “Fruit Crush” and will be out January 26th on vinyl and digital. The title track has been kicking around for a little while, it’s a bit of a monster. “Shape Cut”, which is in the mix, was written more recently. “Armour Form” was written in February when Jon Strict Face was here for club ESC. We hung out in my apartment the next day on no sleep and wrote a tune together in like 4 or 5 hours. Then there’s the other EP for Trax Couture’s World Series, which should be out in March. I just finished mixdowns for that. The Liminal one is quite sonically colourful. I sent all my dubs to Sam and Sara and they made a selection that maybe I wouldn’t have, but then I listened through and went, ‘wait, this is really cool! It really makes sense’. The choices that Rushmore made for the Trax Couture EP are relatively stripped back and a bit darker.”

So did you approach the two EPs differently? Or was it on the shoulders of the people from the label rather than writing for a release? “Yeah, the former. I haven’t worked in that way yet, writing for a release. I just write tunes whenever I can. Some I write one in a single afternoon and some take months. Basically, I write them and then they go into my little collection of dubs and I send them around.” Do they follow on from the first EP or are you feeling out a different vibe? “Ah, well, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing really! The Liminal EP I’m really happy with as a follow up, it occupies a space that follows on from the previous one but it’s a bit more of a tighter zone, it’s like a more specific vibe that’s articulated in three different ways. I also like it because it has quite diverse tempos. The one for Trax Couture was perhaps a moment where I was trying to make more drum tracky stuff, like ‘tool’ style things. I guess I go through little periods where I find myself doing different things. I have a tendency to work towards pop structures but I’m interested in pushing myself to work differently, like for example making a structure more about shifts rather than build-ups. I don’t know; my process is very exploratory. I don’t really sit down and go ‘OK I’m going to make this thing to serve this purpose’, it’ll be an inspiration, whether that’s a little rhythm in my head or a melodic thought, or even just a couple of sounds and then the ideal projects seem to write themselves and I make sense of them afterwards.” Lots of people say that about writing tunes, that the best ones write themselves. “Yeah, it’s so true though! I really appreciate the momentum of writing music and I’m quite wary of erasing that by trying to too carefully fine-tune something. I find often what makes a track really work is just the juicy idea that, if you’re trying to polish up later, you might actually obscure.”

That reminds me of Objekt. He always says in interviews its takes him like 6 months to make a track, and then on the other hand you read about Girl Unit or Ikonika who have said they tend to move on very quickly if it’s not working in the first couple of sittings. But Objekt tunes things so finely that they kinda come back in the other side and you find these weird, fucked grooves in the immense detail. “I have heaps of admiration for an approach like Objekt. I don’t have too much insight into the ways other people produce but I sometimes hear stuff and go, wow, every single instance of every sound has been carefully manipulated, every sonic event is unique, and it’s incredible. I’m super in awe of that and part of me aspires to that but the part of me that vibes off that initial idea outweighs the other. Time constraints, too. But Objekt’s stuff pushes so far that it ends up in this totally different space and you just can’t mess with it, it’s totally sick. But I also don’t have the technical ability, that person seems like a scientist.” Yeah but that’s all just part of this genius myth, like ‘Renegade Snares’ where the breaks are all intricately and individually handcrafted. “Yeah, actually one more thing, I’m an advocate of a good idea and a grimey mixdown. The world is so full of immaculately produced music that I feel like there needs to be a space where the thing doesn’t have to be perfectly realised. There’s no point in having a beautifully produced track if the content isn’t making things move. We exist in a really unique space right now. I did this really nerdy thing when I was in Indonesia recently where I went through Resident Advisor’s top 50 tracks of the year in reverse chronology. If you go back to, say, 2008, already shit sounds fucked! Way less HD, heaps shoddier, heaps less tight. The current production climate is this terabyte era where you can really go super detailed on stuff and that feels really natural to us but it’s actually recent in the history of dance music for stuff to be this precise, sharp, punchy and aggressive.”

The relationship between DJing and producing has been one of the interesting themes to come out of this series, I wonder if you could shed some light on your practice in that respect? “Playing out is really instructive, I tend to play a lot of my own stuff and things in progress to get a sense of how they’re behaving. That’s been hugely instrumental. DJing is a fundamental aspect of my production practice.” How has the context of club ESC played into that specifically? “It’s my favourite context to play. I feel very at home and I can play exactly what I want to play. It’s awesome, club ESC is beautiful. I love it so much. [looks off wistfully into the distance]”

How did the club ESC nights get started? “It’s the usual story of wanting to have more club experiences and wanting to be able to play on a more regular basis. It was obvious that the only way to do that was to do it ourselves. Jona (Rap Simons) and myself had known each other for quite a while and then realised one day while chatting that we had quite similar music tastes. We were making tentative steps on the club night but when I met Lawson, he was really the missing part of the puzzle. Actually it was really cute, I was playing in early 2013 and like, no one was there – it was really early in the night so it was just my partner and Jona sitting down at the back, and then this lone dude dancing. I was played my set and at the end we were all like “Who was that dude!?” and he’d disappeared. About an hour later that person (Lawson) tweeted at me, so I DM’d him and organized to meet up and it became immediately clear that we were very like-minded. So that’s how it started. It works really well, the three of us are organizers and resident deejays. Jona and I handle all the graphics and art direction, with input from Lawson, of course. Lawson is the logistical mastermind. We’re up to number 5 now for this year. It’s basically just a bunch of our friends, it maybe flexes beyond that from night to night, but that’s the core. And that’s super special, that community means so much to us. It’s so fucking humbling to see people come out to every night, I feel a really deep sense of respect and reverence for, and responsibility to them, because you know, club music isn’t shit without dancers.” Yeah, that community thing is something I really noticed. What I found interesting is that there were lots of lights, usually I personally prefer pitch black, but the vibe was obviously popping off. Lawson was saying you guys wanted to create a platform where people can be quite performative, to see and be seen so to speak (but, like, not in a surveilled way), and that played into the way you guys engage with your community. I’m wondering how you go about those kinds of things – lighting, DJ placement and other structural aspects of the night and how those things might help to foster a community? “With the lighting, you make it sound like club ESC is super bright – I think we’re still in the dark end. But a lot of the time our hands are tied with the venue, they need to have a certain amount of light or whatever. We have fun with it, we change the colour or temperature of lighting according to the theme of the night, but I don’t know if keeping it bright so that people are visible is necessarily a conscious decision. Intense darkness can also sometimes make people feel unsafe. One of my favourites was number 4 with Simona Kapitolina, she played a 3 hour techno set and that night we had a really bright projection of time-lapsed flowers opening and closing on loop, and the stage was flooded with pink light illuminating $300 worth of flowers we had all over the DJ table. And that felt really right. Other nights the lights might get cut at some stage and that feels really right too, so it depends. I know you’re really invested in the idea of the invisible DJ but it can also be wonderful to create a platform for our guests to be visible and do their thing, and if audience members aren’t into that they can rave out at the back of the room.”

So with these structural aspects of the club space in mind, how does club ESC relate to queer identity? “Well, I love queer dance floors. Queer dance floors are way better than straight dance floors. Dance floors where people are on E are also definitely my favourite. Although obviously people should do their thing and shine bright as they wish! It’s interesting because it’s not part of the mission of the night as such, it has just ended up that way. It’s something that we’ve talked about a bit, among ourselves and with some of our friends who attend often, figuring out how to maintain that or prioritise the enjoyment of club ESC for the queer people or trans people that turn up. It’s ideal for that space to be accessible and safe for everyone. I identify as queer, but we collectively don’t feel comfortable advertising as a queer night or laying claim or trying to speak for, for instance, the trans community here in Melbourne. Which is structural: that’s not our story to tell, club ESC is really just our beautiful friends that come and party and we try to make sure that it’s as fun and safe as it can be for them. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.”

Your involvement with the art world comes at a cool time because the intersection between contemporary art and dance music is super interesting at the moment, there seems to be a really productive and invigorating relationship forming with digital platforms really opening up music to aesthetics. I hear your music as quite conceptual in that artsy way, I was listening to one of your tracks the other day and had this realization of like ‘damn everything in this track is so wet’ – not realised in that seapunk method of signification but in a more physical and visceral way. It might’ve been damp or moist or dewy but always within that ecosystem. “Haha, that track probably just had too much reverb. But yeah, I definitely identify with that, when I think about writing club music I try to go in with an expanded mindset, I don’t go in to write a house track or a grime track… I’m really not interested in recreating something that already exists. I’m interested in abstraction, in generating cool sounds that can coexist and building relationships between sounds and textures that are affective or interesting. I’m interested in the boundaries. I have this one rule that it needs to work in the club. I want it to be affective. Beyond that one rule, I wanna fuck shit up as much as I can, and I don’t know how successful I am with that. I try and force myself to not use that drum sample but find an instance of the frequency that I want in a completely different sound. I think this has a lot to do with where I fit culturally, I don’t feel I can lay claim to any established genre because that’s not where I’m from.”  

Yeah word, I’ve been thinking a lot about this Australian/outsider cultural identity and it’s really interesting to hear the way your location affects your approach to sound design. I think this context has created some really cool, weird shit, like your stuff. When I interviewed Justin of Victoria Kim he said, you know, ‘we’re all just imitating people but doing it wrong’, which is an interesting perspective and pretty true. On the other hand I definitely feel like your music exists outside of that a little bit, so I’m wondering how your identity plays into your music? “Firstly I do not identify as Australian. Technically I’m Dutch, I was born there but grew up in New Zealand. I’m also politically very suspect of the nation state. So it’s kind of complicated. If I had to choose it would probably be New Zealander. I feel like these issues are super complex especially because of the colonial histories of both of these countries, which I think needs to be addressed as part of this conversation although I’m probably not capable of doing that properly right now. But bringing it back to the musical space we occupy, I think it’s a blessing and a curse really, this southern hemisphere existence. If I was somewhere that had super established protocols or styles or something, I would possibly just be making much more straightforward ‘genre x’. With the lack of mentors or scenes also comes a great deal of freedom. I really appreciate Victoria Kim’s idea of doing stuff wrong, like in the absence of an established protocol or context for creating a specific kind of music, trying some shit and making a bunch of mistakes that sound cool is probably the best thing. I listen to my own tracks and can hear that they sound way off, but it’s good that it doesn’t sound ‘right’. I am very conscious of not concretely copying things from other genres, especially genres that come from very real communities, often minority communities or communities that are socially marginalized. For better or for worse, I’ve kind of been associated with grime, and that’s cool but I don’t actually identify that way because I genuinely feel that I cannot lay claim that to culture at all. The degree to which I identify with grime is maybe this thing that I’ve heard from interviews and some writing about when grime was emerging out of a more polished garage context, and people would say ‘fuck off with that grimey shit’. So like, grimey but not capital G ‘Grime’. It always makes me uneasy if some privileged suburban kid is making tracks with ha crashes when the last track they made was a Jersey club track and the one before that was a footwork track… Yeah, I’ve been having a bit of a crisis lately about negotiating this stuff. This also plays into what you said before about being associated with grime. Like me doing this weird column as a 21 year old cis-whyte-boy from inner-city Sydney… it’s ridiculous, really. But I’m kinda stumped for what to do. “Aw man, I know that feeling exactly. I think it’s important to be able to critically deconstruct that blogger-in-Sydney-situation but also acknowledge that its absurdity is kinda wonderful. Because I definitely struggle with that too: at the end of the day me building my practice and ‘career’ is just another white man taking up cultural space, which is not really what the world needs right now. It’s just about finding some balance between doing the thing but being aware that you’re taking up space and doing so in a self-conscious way. And if that becomes a position of power, just being aware and sensitive to that. I’m interested in owning that as well, like owning the fact that I pass as a man, but trying to be true to kinds of masculinities I identify with that aren’t normative and like smuggling those in along with the pass. Being a bit femme or cute or whatever and just trying to make some noise from within the system.”

Considering the emphasis on the body in recent critical theory and also your emphasis on club functionality and affect, I was wondering if you could delve into the kinds of (dis)embodiments or mindstates you’re interested in producing or that you enjoy when raving? It’s interesting as well that the idea of liminality is obviously closely tied to the Liminal Sounds label, but also Fade To Mind alludes to that certain state of becoming, of the in-between that club space can put you in. “Yeah, the relationship to the word liminal is wild, that’s definitely a concept I’m really fascinated by. It’s very serendipitous or appropriate that I’m releasing with those guys, although we haven’t actually talked about that yet. I’m very interested in the concept of affect, I don’t do so much reading right now but for a moment I was doing some reading around Deleuzian sort of thought that explores ideas of affect and becoming and pre-individuality. These concepts are very hard to discuss because the language we use to discuss them has to operate in a way that marginalises the inbetween or the relationality of the world and of things. And our Western capitalistic framework privileges much more fixed notions of identity. The degree to which one can gesture towards this stuff within music, club space or the dancefloor is  a whole other thing that I don’t know if I’ve put a lot of thought into, but I definitely love those ideas. Then, in terms of specific ‘effects’ or mindstates that I’m interested in inducing, I don’t know, one of the little handholds I have on the concept of affect is that moment when you’re experiencing something and all the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, and I get that sometimes with music, so maybe something like that? I’m also just trying to inspire movement. Some tracks that I hear in a club I just can’t help but freak out and move and close my eyes and surrender to. There are really different ways of dancing, like where you’re kind of in control of what you’re doing, consciously maintaining a rhythm, but then there’s also times where, for me I’m just like, freaking out, haha. I’m not interested so much in alienating my audience, which kind of goes back to that threshold of club functionality. I want things to be disorientating or unusual for the dance floor to a degree, but I don’t want that to be something that will make people tune out or feel bad. I wanna be able to hopefully boogie around on that threshold in a way where it can be as much infectious and sexy and like, kinetic as it is alien.”

Cool, let’s finish up with some business – what are your plans for the next few months? “I’m going to be on tour in Europe in May and June, also trying to tour Asia next year. club ESC are in talks about doing a nationwide Air Max ‘97 tour soon and I’ve got gigs coming up in Adelaide and Canberra. Basically club ESC continues as long as the three of us are in Melbourne, so I’ll be working on that as well.”

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Words by Tobias Shine, 19 December 2014. Tags: | Leave a comment

Recommended: Delta Funktionen – Setup One: Decorum

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Reissues and represses were aplenty in 2014, but it’s not something we often cover here on Truants. In terms of a few highlights, Donato Dozzy & Neel put out the brilliant Aquaplano Sessions compilation, Berceuse Heroique put out an old 2002 Bitasweet record from one half of 4hero and Dance Mania went all out with a double disc release featuring 20 plus tracks chronicling some of the labels earliest releases from 1986 to 1997. Although not on as big a scale as some of the items just mentioned, a recent repress of Niels Luinenburg’s classic first Setup record has quietly landed at a number of online vendors amidst a tonne of end-of-year lists. Originally released in 2010 on Delsin sub-label Ann Amiee, Setup One: Decorum served as a starting point for a trilogy of releases that followed with Setup Two: Fusion and Setup Three: O/F/F in the following year. Enjoying a small rise to notoriety with just a small back catalog and a particular track called “Silhouette” being hammered in the techno community at the time, 2010 saw Niels capitalise on his penchant for functional techno on Decorum while also flirting with ideas of experimentalism and abstract ambience.

The first track on the record, “Abundance”, is arguably the track people might pull for the most at peak-time hours in the club. The exceptional claps alone and their rolling arrangement make this a highly effective weapon, with the bass/acid licks driving this all the way till the finish. Things fall into the deeper side of the techno spectrum with tracks “One’s Space” and “Please Identity”, while “Erosion” sees Delta Funktionen dropping the techno in favour of mesmerising ambient soundscapes, which rounds off the release nicely. Although the repress comes as a hand-stamped 12″, it’s probably worth pointing out the brilliant artwork by Boris Tellegen that blessed the original press and the following two records in the series. It’s very likely if you own any Delta Funktionen releases, for that matter, that you might recognise the Dutch artist’s signature style. Sure, Setup One: Decorum wasn’t the best techno release of 2010, but whether you source out the original on Discogs for the artwork or buy the just released repress, this is a must-have record for anyone wanting to beef out their club-ready techno collection.

Delta Funkionen – Setup One: Decorum is available to buy from the Delsin store, Phonica, Juno and other popular outlets. 

Words by Riccardo Villella, 18 December 2014. Leave a comment

Recommended: Lord Raja – A Constant Moth

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Since two weeks ago, and via the vast keenness of the people behind Ghostly International, we’ve had the pleasure of ruminating with a masterfully crafted debut LP, “A Constant Moth“. The LP comes by way of Chester Anand, who dons the Lord Raja pseudonym for only the second time. The full length arrives not exactly on the heels of the New York producer’s previous effort, seeing as the Rubies EP has been out since April of last year. Even though aspects of his current music lend a sense of continuity in style, in many cases with A Constant Moth, Raja is heard pitching change-ups that demonstrate how his production may have evolved for good.

As with Rubies, the album brims with an enveloping lushness that serves as either the backdrop or an anterior interest to his meticulous beat work. It doesn’t take long for the listener to learn that it’s still Raja’s beat orientation upon which he builds and crafts, with opener “Yelleo E” encasing a salvo of Chicago-indebted freneticism, a rhythmic allusion we haven’t heard from him before. Beside his experimentation with footwork, what’s more profound on A Constant Moth is Raja’s focus on the micro; this might sound like an ambiguous quality, but the producer’s ability to coalesce a plethora of granular textures track by track is what makes the album such an engaging listen without being over-produced. From the Jeremiah Jae-featuring “Van Go”—the rapper a usually low-key spitter from the West Coast who tapped Lord Raja for a beat on a mixtape this year—to second-half groover “De Lia Lu Lu”, the producer’s formula becomes astounding textural volume contained within more or less steady beat framework. In this respect, “Skyre” is a clear standout, a track in which meticulous drum programming seems in an attempt to bustle through a melody which stays just this side of melancholic (skyre means to shine bright or conspicuously in Scottish dialect). “Throw Them Out (System)”, meanwhile, is the most overtly Mid-West-geared track on the record—but, like other tracks, it might have your mind dancing more than your body.


A Constant Moth was released on December 2 on Ghostly International.

Words by Michael Scala, 17 December 2014. Leave a comment

Interview: Wanda Group

WANDA GROUP - IN ONE EAR AND THEN SHOVED IN THE BOOT OF A CAR - TRUANTS

We’ve been fans of WANDA GROUP for some time, loving both his singular brand of field recordings and musique concrète and his unique mode of communication. Across social networks and even into email, every word he types is released into the digital world fully capped for maximum impact. It’s not a gimmick though, as one can see from careful reading of his curious observations: he just looks at the world differently. We’ve been waiting some time to do something with him, and he’s gifted us with a long-form piece, “IN ONE EAR AND THEN SHOVED IN THE BOOT OF A CAR”. To accompany this piece he answered some of our questions by email, covering his work this year, recording work for film and how his latest venture was inspired by his cats.

Hey there Louis, I hope you’re keeping well. How are you right now? “HELLO, AIDAN/TRUANTS ETC. NOT BAD, MATE. NOT BAD. JUST SITTING ON THE SOFA/SETTEE WITH MOYA. SHE IS ON HER IPAD AND I AM ON MY LAPTOP.  SHE IS ORDERING A REPLACEMENT BOILER FOR HER UNCLE.”

What have you been up to lately? “WELL, SIR. RIGHT… HERE WE GO. LAST TWO MONTHS HAVE BEEN BUSY AS I HAVE BEEN DOING MORE SHOWS THAN USUAL, WHICH IS GREAT. HAD A LOT OF LOVELY TIMES BUT I SEE THAT YOU HAVE MENTIONED THIS IN A QUESTION FURTHER DOWN, SO I WILL SHUT UP ABOUT THAT FOR NOW. OKAY. IN MY LIFE I HAVE BEEN SORT OF TRYING TO BOOK STUFF UP FOR ME AND MOYA’S TRIP TO VIETNAM. I SAW THAT YOU HAD RECENTLY BEEN ? (QUESTION WITHIN AN EMAIL INTERVIEW (NICE WORK, LOU)).

“I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON MUSIC AND ALSO DOING SOME SORT OF WRITTEN WORK FOR NORMAN RECORDS. NOTHING WILD OR THAT INTERESTING BUT IT PAYS SOME MONEY WHEN I AIN’T GETTING NONE. I HAVE MOVED AWAY FROM CARE WORK FOR A WHILE. DID IT FOR 10 YEARS AND IT KIND OF HURT MY HEART AND BRAIN, SO I HAVE STOPPED. HOPEFULLY I WILL GET THE ENERGY BACK INSIDE TO DO IT AGAIN BUT FOR NOW I AM JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE OFF THIS. WE WILL SEE.

How has 2014 been for you? “THE MAIN THING IS MOVING UP NORTH (AS YOU MENTION IN THE QUESTION BELOW THIS QUESTION). I LIVED IN BRIGHTON FOR AROUND FOUR YEARS. IT WAS NICE. BEING NEAR THE OCEAN AND BEING NEAR MY FRIENDS (WE ALL SORT OF MOVED DOWN THERE TOGETHER). SO YES. I NOW LIVE IN HUDDERSFIELD WITH MOYA AND HER TWO CATS. LIFE IS NICE, MAN. IT IS WEIRD BEING UP HERE AND NOT KNOWING ANYONE BUT THAT’S OKAY. I KNOW MOYA AND THAT IS ENOUGH. I ALSO GET ON WITH HER FRIENDS. THEY ARE ALL LOVELY. THIS IS QUITE BORING, I AM SORRY. YOU ASKED, THOUGH, MATE.  ALSO PLAYING LOADS OF SHOWS (SORT OF LOADS OF SHOWS. NOT MASSIVE AMOUNTS BUT THAT’S OKAY). I KEEP SAYING ‘THAT’S OKAY’ A LOT. SORRY, MATE.”

You moved up north, how has that worked out? “IT HAS WORKED OUT NICE, SIR. LIKE I SAID, IT’S WEIRD BEING AWAY FROM EVERYONE YOU KNOW BUT AGAIN, I HAVE MOYA AND I HAVE THE CATS.”

Can you tell me about Cat Sounds, your podcast with Moya? What brought that about? “MOYA BASICALLY SAW ME MAKING ALL THIS CRAP MUSIC AND SHE IS REAL-TIME INTO MUSIC. LIKE SERIOUSLY. SHE KNOWS FUCKIN’ TONS ABOUT THE STUFF.  MORE THAN ME. SHE LISTENS AND BUYS RECORDS, TAPES AND ANYTHING SHE LISTENS TO AND LIKES. IT’S REALLY LOVELY TO SEE SOMEONE REALLY FUCKIN’ PUTTING THEIR MONEY DOWN FOR SHIT THEY LIKE. SHE ALSO CONTACTS THE ARTIST DIRECTLY (WHEN SHE CAN) AND GIVES THEM THE MONEY. BANGS THAT SHIT THROUGH PAYPAL AND ZOOM.

“SO RIGHT. SHE WANTED TO DO A RADIO SHOW. I SAID OKAY AND THEN NOTHING HAPPENED. THEN TWO WEEKS AGO, I HAD A COUPLE OF DRINKS AND WE WAS RELAXING AND I JUST STARTED SETTING THE STUFF UP. IT’S VERY BASIC. A MIXER, TWO TAPE DECKS, MICROPHONE AND THEN WE JUST WENT FOR IT. I SAID ‘RIGHT. COME ON THEN. IT’S READY’. WE TOOK A COUPLE OF TAKES TO GET GOING BUT AFTER ABOUT THREE FALSE STARTS WE WAS AWAY. LIVE AND ON FIRE. (SORRY I HAD TO PAUSE THERE. ONE OF OUR CATS LIKES US TO THROW THIS LITTLE DRUM PAD THING AND HE CHASES AFTER IT. HE JUST BROUGHT IT TO ME SO I HAD TO GET THAT SHIT SORTED. DONE NOW. HANG ON. HE IS BACK. ONE SECOND.) OKAY. SO WE JUST STARTED DOING THIS THING. COUPLE OF DRINKS AND THEN IT HAPPENED. WE SORT OF HAVE THE OUTLINE THAT IT’S JUST OVER AN HOUR AND WE HAVE FIVE MINUTES EACH. SO I CHOOSE SOMETHING AND THEN AS THAT IS GOING ON SHE IS LOOKING THROUGH HER TAPES AND LISTENING AND THEN SHE PUTS SOMETHING ON. IT ALL KIND OF WORKS LIKE THAT. NICE AND LIVE, THOUGH. I REALLY ENJOY IT.”

Why cats? “I THINK IT WAS AS BASIC AS THE FACT THAT WE HAVE TWO CATS AND WE LOOK AFTER THIS OTHER STRAY CAT, SO IT MUST HAVE BEEN ON MY DRUNK MIND. I GUESS THE CATS WERE WALKING AROUND US WHILE WE WAS DOING IT. IT’S ALL DONE ON THE FLOOR AND I GUESS THEY WAS WALKING AND LOOKING AT THE TAPE DECK MOVING AROUND. IN THE FIRST SHOW I JUST CALL IT ‘CAT SHOW’. I FORGOT BY THE END OF IT AND CALLED IT ‘CAT SOUNDS’. AGAIN, MATE. I WAS JUST DRUNK, I THINK. I JUST BOUGHT A NEW MICROPHONE. THE ONE I USE AT THE MOMENT AIN’T SO GOOD FOR OUR VOCALS. IT’S EITHER WAY TOO LOUD OR JUST SHIT. SO WE HAVE THIS SORT OF SEMI-DECENT ONE. WELL IT’S 12 QUID. SO I GUESS IT’S ALSO SHIT. YOU CAN TURN IT ON AND OFF, THOUGH.”

You’ve been exceptionally busy this year, but largely under the radar – mixes and long-form works, tracks for compilations (ie Life Between Screens), putting out stuff on your own Bandcamp page – do you ever stop? What’s your approach to work? “I DIDN’T REALLY MEAN TO BE UNDER THE RADAR. ALONG WITH ALL MY OTHER STUFF I HAVE PUT OUT ON BANDCAMP, I HAVE FINISHED TWO MORE LPS. LIKE MOST THINGS, THOUGH, IT TAKES A WHILE TO GET IT PRESSED AND ALL THAT. SO ONE OF THEM IS TAKING LONGER THAN I THOUGHT. SHOULD BE OUT SOON, MAYBE. THE OTHER IS NOT GOING TO COME OUT UNTIL NEXT YEAR. I DON’T EVER STOP. NO. I HAVEN’T STOPPED SINCE I WAS ABOUT 14. WHEN I STARTED REALLY GETTING INTO IT ALL. I AM 30 IN 14 DAYS, SO I GUESS I AM DOING OKAY. MY APPROACH IS JUST THAT I MAKE THE STUFF. I STILL LOVE IT AND REALLY JUST LOVE GETTING INSIDE IT ALL. YOU START SOMETHING AND THEN IT TURNS INTO A RECORD, IT COULD ONLY BE A COUPLE OF SECONDS AFTER ABOUT FOUR HOURS WORK. IT COULD BE FOUR HOURS OF MUSIC AFTER FOUR HOURS. IT’S GREAT. I KEEPS MY BRAIN MOVING. YOU JUST GET LOST IN IT.”

You provided the soundtrack to Symirroretry, a conceptual film about skateboarding (or so I gather from the film’s website). How did you get involved with that project? “ANDREW CONTACTED ME. HE BASICALLY SHOWED ME SOME CLIPS OF THE FILM HE WAS WORKING ON. HE HAD EDITED IT ALL TO MY MUSIC. STUFF THAT HAD PREVIOUSLY COME OUT ON RECORD OR OTHER LITTLE RELEASES. I LOVED IT. THE BOY HAS AN EYE. REALLY. AN EYE AND AN EAR AND A GUT. I SAID COURSE YOU CAN USE MY MUSIC. I THEN SAID: ‘LOOK, SIR. WHY NOT HAVE SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW. HOW ABOUT I MAKE A WHOLE NEW SOUNDTRACK FOR YOU FILM ?’ HE SAID ‘YES, SIR’. SO I GOT TO WORK. GOING THROUGH OLD IDEAS AND BRAND NEW THINGS. I NEVER GOT TO SEE THE FILM WHILE I WAS WORKING. IT WAS ALL DONE FROM HIM SENDING ME EMAILS ABOUT CERTAIN CUTS AND IMAGES. I WOULD THEN WORK ON SOMETHING AND SEND IT OVER. HE WOULD GIVE ME FEEDBACK AND IT WOULD GO FROM THERE. IT’S A LOVELY THING. REALLY FUCKIN’ LOVELY. NOT MY SHIT BUT THE FILM, I MEAN.”

I noticed that as well as the familiar sound of WANDA’s field recording, there were bright, shimmering synth lines throughout this piece. What was your approach to the score? Was it much different to how you would normally operate? “AS I SAID ABOVE. IT WAS JUST BOTH OF US TESTING STUFF OUT. HE HAS A GREAT MIND FOR SUCH A YOUNG GEEZER. REALLY PUTTING EVERYTHING HE HAD INTO THIS. I WAS JUST IN FOR THE RIDE. I MADE THE STUFF AND HE SAID ‘YES’ OR ‘NAH, MATE’. THE CD WE RELEASED FROM THE SOUNDTRACK IS A COLLAGE OF ALL THE STUFF I MADE FOR THE FILM. SOME STUFF DOESN’T APPEAR IN THE FILM BUT IT HELPED HIM WITH THE EDITING PROCESS. SORT OF BEHIND THE SCENES PIECES. SOME STUFF IN THE FILM AIN’T ON THE SOUNDTRACK, AS HE USED SOME STUFF THAT HAD BEEN RELEASED BEFORE. OLD STUFF THAT I JUST LOST OR DIDN’T HAVE ANY MORE. I GUESS IT WAS DIFFERENT IN THE SENSE THAT I HAD SOMEONE TELLING ME TO CHANGE CERTAIN THINGS. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN UP TO ME WHETHER TO CHANGE ANYTHING OR NOT. IT WAS NICE TO HAVE SOMEONE STOP ME CRAWLING SLOWLY UP MY OWN ARSEHOLE.”

Meds, the label that put out the soundtrack, have only done three releases so far – a four-CD retrospective set of tracks spanning more than a decade, a cassette tape of electronically produced meditation drones and the Symirroretry CD, all in very limited quantities. How did it end up with them? “TOM, WHO RUNS THE LABEL, IS A LEEDS LAD. I MET HIM THROUGH MOYA. WE GOT TALKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING FOR HIS LOVELY LABEL AND I SAID ABOUT THE SOUNDTRACK. IT WAS THAT EASY. SO SMOOTH. I GOT THE MUSIC ALL MADE UP. THEN IT WAS DONE. REALLY FUCKIN’ LOVELY. THEY ARE GOING TO BE DOING SOME VERY FUCKIN’ BEAUTIFUL STUFF.”

You played a load of shows this year, from Unsound to fellow Truant Tayyab’s living room. Do any shows stand out, for good or bad reasons? “UNSOUND WAS GREAT. I DIDN’T THINK ANYONE WOULD BE THERE FOR MY SET BUT I WENT OUT FOR A FAG AND THEN I COME BACK AND BANG. ABOUT 10,000 PEOPLE ARE STANDING THERE. ALL WAITING. I HAD TO GO TO THE BAR AND GET  A QUICK PINT. MY LEGS WHERE SHAKING. I WENT WELL, THOUGH. BAD SHOWS? WELL. I DUNNO. I HAVE HAD SOME SOUND ISSUES. SOMETIMES ITS MY FAULT BECAUSE OF MY SHIT LAPTOP. SOMETIMES THE SOUND JUST DOESN’T COME THROUGH THE MONITORS. AGAIN, I SHOULD TELL THEM TO TURN IT UP BUT I GET KIND OF LOST IN MY OWN LITTLE PROCESS AND FORGET. THE OPAL TAPES TOUR WE JUST DID WAS GREAT. STEPHEN [Bishop, Opal Tapes boss who records/performs as Basic House], JIMMY [Billingham, aka HOLOVR], KAREN [Gwyer] AND PATRICIA. ALL BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. MY FAVOURITE SHOW WAS ONE IN BRISTOL. IN AN OLD CINEMA. IT WAS SO LOUD. CLEAR AND LOUD. TWO SUBS (THANKS TO DEAN BLUNT). THE WHOLE ROOM WAS SHAKING. OLD CHAIRS SORT OF SQUEAKING AND SCREAMING AROUND THE ROOM. IT WAS LIKE ANOTHER INSTRUMENT. SO GOOD. EVEN A BAD SHOW IS FUN, THOUGH. YOU CAN ALWAYS TAKE SOMETHING NEW AWAY FROM IT. I CALLED EVERYONE ‘A BUNCH OF CUNTS’ AT A SHOW IN LONDON A COUPLE OF MONTHS BACK, THOUGH. NOBODY NEEDS THAT. PEOPLE SHOULD SHUT UP SOMETIMES.”

Of course I have to ask you about the piece you’ve shared with us, “IN ONE EAR AND THEN SHOVED IN THE BOOT OF A CAR”. You described it as “ALL MY OWN STUFF MERGED AND SPAT AROUND. FIELD RECORDINGS ETC”, but would you be able to elaborate on that? “I GUESS. RIGHT. IT’S JUST NEW THINGS I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON THAT NEVER REALLY FOUND THEIR WAY ON TO A RECORD OR A RELEASE. THIS IS ALL A LIVE EDIT OF THAT STUFF. ME JUST GOING FOR IT. LIKE A NEW LIVE RECORD, I GUESS. THE MAIN BULK OF IT (THE BORING PART) IS FROM DEN HAAG. IN MY HOTEL ROOM. MICROPHONE OUT OF THE WINDOW. THAT THEN JUST BECOMES WHAT IT IS. YOU GO FROM THE SOUND INTO JUST BEING WITH ME IN THE LIVING, I THINK. THAT SOUND THEN OVERLAPS WITH A RECORDING OF ME IN OUR BEDROOM BACK HOME.”

The sound of a piano jumps out at one point, where was that recorded? “YEAH THAT IS FROM THE RECORDING OF OUR BEDROOM. I GUESS I WENT DOWNSTAIRS AT ONE POINT AND PLAYED THE LITTLE PIANO THAT WE HAVE. I MEAN, I PROBABLY DID IT ON PURPOSE. WHO KNOWS.”

“IN ONE EAR” has some more melody in it, just hints here and there. Can we expect a trance opera from you in the near future? “MAYBE NOT A TRANCE OPERA. REALLY WORKING ON GETTING INTO DIGITAL RECORDING. HAVE NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE. DIGITAL RECORDING IN THE SENSE OF FIELD RECORDING. I HAVE ONLY EVER RECORDED WITH TAPES. I AM LOOKING AT GETTING A NICE DIGITAL RECORDER FOR VIETNAM. SO I THINK, IF I GET THAT, I WILL MAKE CLEANER SHIT. THAT THEN BECOMES THE NEW THING. NEVER BEEN USED TO IT ALL SO CLEAN. SO USED TO HAVING TAPE HISS AND ROT ALL OVER MY STUFF. SO THAT COULD BE VERY EXCITING. PEOPLE MIGHT HATE IT BUT THAT’S ALL GOOD.”

What does 2015 hold for Louis/WANDA/HERS/UMBRO G/CAT SOUNDS? “MORE MUSIC, SIR. JUST THE SAME. EITHER STUFF PUT OUT ON OTHER LABELS. IF NOT THEN JUST ON BANDCAMP. GOING TO START DOING CDR RUNS LIKE I USED TO WHEN I WAS  YOUNGER. SORT OF 50 COPIES. LIKE I DID WITH EARTH INSIDER.  I NEED TO GET INTO OIL PAINTING. BEEN MEANING TO DO IT FOR A WHILE. I HAVE ALL THE GEAR AND I JUST NEED TO SIT DOWN AND FUCKIN’ DO THAT. DO MORE WRITING, GO ON TRIPS. DO MORE SHOWS. KEEP DOING CAT SOUNDS. I WANT TO MAKE THE SHOW ALL OVER THE PLACE. LIKE A REAL IMPROV THING. JUST TALKING AND THEN SILENCE OR SOMETHING FALLING OVER. LOADS OF DEAD AIR AND WEIRD SPACE. I AIN’T SURE MOYA IS UP FOR THAT, THOUGH. I AM JUST GONNA KEEP DOING WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING, SIR. MAKING THE SHIT AND THEN MOVING ON.

“THANK YOU, AIDAN/TRUANTS. GO EASY, MATE.”

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 16 December 2014. Leave a comment

Recommended: Gage – Bad Bitch ft. Kevin Jz Prodigy

LEGS009-bad-bitch-gage-kevin-jz-prodigy-truants

This year, the extent of grime’s cross-pollination with other genres, styles and cultures has been center of the spotlight for many. We’ve heard it take on things as near as its similarly-youthful London sibling dubstep, reach as far out to Jersey club and stretch to abstract experimentalism. Curiously, it shares a sonic hallmark with ballroom in the form of Dat Oven’s “Icy Lake”, as rediscovered and covered in a Night Slugs/Fade to Mind short film. A key point in flirtations between the two would be MikeQ’s involvement with Fade to Mind back in 2012 – one of the more tangible moments where grime and ballroom scenes were exposed to each other on a release that featured Kevin Jz Prodigy.

Considered a legendary vogue performer and commentator, Kevin JourdanZion Prodigy, also known as Kevin Deshields, isn’t someone we’d really expected to find on Crazylegs. The Bristolian clubnight/label/party institution celebrated its sixth birthday this year with a spate of takeover dates and various releases (a recent highlight would be Bloom’s Hydraulics). It also saw the debut for some – Gage is a music guy who surfaced with “Telo” in February on some stuttering pulsation grime tip, later featuring in our Functions of the Now series. His beat for “Bad Bitch” also channels the tonal aesthetic of a steel factory, this time with sirens whirring back and forth like backmasked blue shift. Squelchy zaps and airy claps are littered between kicks with complete disregard for regularity- Deshields’ vocal extravaganza carries the rhythm through in an explosive, galvanizing fashion that’s sure to stop anyone in their tracks. But for a single breakdown, “Bad Bitch” is a barrage of pure energy, some sort of forty-five hit ultimate combo of concussions and flourishes. Effects stemming from the ways in which cultures can spread through the filter of other genres (and their gatekeepers and fans) remains to be seen, though the interesting thing about “Bad Bitch” is the lack of compromise from both parties; despite being a collaboration, it seems like the vocal does its own thing as does the instrumental, both blazing onwards side-by-side. It’d be jarring if it wasn’t perfectly in-step, resonating to devastating effect.

“Bad Bitch”. One track release, verses only. It can speak for itself, let’s get it.

“Bad Bitch” is out today in digital format on Crazylegs.

Words by Tayyab Amin, 10 December 2014. Leave a comment

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