Who is the real Earl Sweatshirt? The question is more pertinent than ever as he strikes out alone on I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt. Produced almost entirely by himself under the alias randomblackdude, with a Left Brain beat and guest verse from the group’s quasi-member Vince Staples (the only Odd Future contributions), IDLS is the record Earl wants us to see as his manifesto proper. It’s the first album he puts out as a man after two often slapdash, occasionally brilliant solo outings with the boys.
This is a strange angle for Earl to come at us with, because IDLS presents us with someone struggling to reconcile the person he is, the person people thought he was, and the person he might become. Having always been the OFWGKTA member of the greatest lyrical promise, the weight of expectation that was exacerbated by the ‘Free Earl’ campaign, which drew Sweatshirt as a caricature of the already cartoonish, loquacious brat of his first self-titled mixtape. Whereas Doris often found itself caught between the poles of pandering to that perception and demonstrating growth, IDLS has Earl retreating (as the title might suggest) from a world that doesn’t get him. The trouble is that this sees him also toying with turning his back on the listener, himself and his craft.
The sound palette of IDLS is generally hostile, even alienating. Many of the beats simultaneously appear sparse and yet in danger of swamping themselves, with mucky ambiences skulking behind percussive sounds that could have been made by banging driftwood on an oil barrel. Drum patterns lurch drunkenly, with tracks like “AM // Radio” barely interested in holding a rhythm together at all. Occasionally a more sprightly production like “Huey” slips through, but these are brief excursions that seem designed more to laugh grimly at the idea that, while there was once a possibility of a lighter and more nimble record than IDLS (see the almost-banger “Mantra”), Earl’s intent on dragging the project down into the murkier corners of his psyche.
While Earl has obviously always found joy in the possibilities of language, much of IDLS sees him playing these purer joys off against the trauma of growing up in public and not living up to expectation, both other people’s and his own high standards. When he sulkily snarls ‘I don’t act hard, I’m a hard act to follow’ on “Grief”, the phrase comes off less as typical hip-hop braggadocio and more a man alienated by his own intelligence from the things and people he loves. This anger turned inward soon manifests in self-destruction, as Earl talks addiction and self-hatred, desperate to keep ‘my time and my mind intact’ but possibly not able to summon the energy for the fight. Ratking’s Wiki treads a similar line on AM // Radio, marrying literal abjection (‘spit out my food, hiccup and piss/urine burning, I can smell the liquor in this’) with acknowledgement of rap as a place of cathartic self-manifestation; ‘when I rap I blast off … keep my head screwed on and abuse these mics’.
However, Earl here needs someone else to do the work for him on this front. When he steps in later in the track, Earl is as couched as at any other point on the album, hitting blunts to stop himself from ‘yakking’ with his ‘mind in the trash next to where my fucking passion went’. While Earl’s troubles obviously run deep, the listlessness that pervades IDLS means that the whole thing feels rather formless. With the exception of the impressive “DNA”, his rapping throughout is languid, and while most of the time his lyrical deftness is enough to maintain interest the lack of hooks or drive mean that the album both feels longer than it is and yet ends abruptly a few seconds shy of the half- hour. Though this is fitting for a conflicted album from a conflicted man, one wonders if Earl might be confusing expression with venting, and if he has wilfully done away with a more nuanced offering in favour of this doomy, Doom-y piece. No doubt there is a great LP inside this man, but it might take a little while yet for him and us to find out who that man is. Free Earl.
Words by: Fred Mikardo-Greaves
Tom Demac is a name familiar to most by now. Originally hailing from North Wales, Tom’s interest in music was sparked by attending free parties in his teens. He’s moved around since then: first to Manchester, but has now settled himself in London. Having first released music via his own Electronique Audio imprint in 2004, Tom’s brand of taut, tough techno gained wider recognition towards the back end of the 2000s. Since then, a steady flow of releases have seen him work with a string of big hitters including Aus, Drumcode and Hypercolour. As his increasingly hectic touring schedule will tell you, it’s certainly an approach which has served him well. However, never being one to stand still, Tom has recently shifted his focus away from his barnstorming live shows towards the decks once more, while work on his long-discussed debut album also appears to be taking shape of late. Given these recent developments, it seemed like a better time than ever to catch up with the Welshman ahead of his appearance at this year’s Gottwood Festival.
Hi Tom, thanks for agreeing to the interview. How’s 2015 been for you so far? Have there been any highlights? “2015 has been great up to now. I’d say the highlight of the year for me so far has been an ‘Arnie All Nighter’ at a cinema in London. Back-to-back classic Arnie films with mates, along with a packed cinema shouting Arnie quotes and cheering his every move – it doesn’t get any better than that does it?” I don’t think it does! So what have you got in the pipeline for the rest of the year? “There’s an E.P. coming out on Hypercolour at some point over the summer, some cool remixes about to surface and a feature on a Cocoon compilation. No doubt, there’ll be another E.P. in the autumn too. All that alongside touring, and I’ve finally broken the back of this album I’ve been talking about for eons – that should be finished over the next few months. The album writing is definitely taking up most of my time at the moment.”
This album is something you’ve been talking about for a while. What can you tell us about it? “I’m definitely in deep album writing mode right now. It’s been a long and drawn out affair for me. Each year I’ve been attempting it and never quite getting it finished. It’s almost become a noose around my neck so to speak – I’ve constantly been pressurising myself into trying to make something ground breaking which isn’t really a particularly healthy mindset. So, this year I’ve had a good rethink and have tried to shelve all that pressure and all the inhibitions I’ve had. I’ve found the last few months have definitely been more of a natural writing process as a result. It should be completed very soon!”
Your love for hardware gear is well known and I assume they’re being used for the album. Can you talk us through your current set-up? Is there anything you’re itching to get your hands on? “I have a pretty unhealthy addiction to buying equipment, yes! (laughs) In my studio there’s a collection of old analogue keyboards and drum machines alongside newer bits like the Elektron Analogue Four and DSI Tempest. I swear by boutique guitar pedals too. Practically all my synths will end up getting run through a chain of about fifteen pedals – from delays, reverbs, pitch effects, distortion etc. sometimes ending up on 1/4” tape before being edited in Ableton.
Stuff I’m itching to get my hands on? I’ll stick to the cliché – a modular. I’ve had my shopping list ready for a couple of years, but I think it’s that worry of taking the plunge and disappearing down the wormhole of geek that’s holding me back a little bit. I already spend a worrying amount of time looking at people badly noodling on synths on YouTube as it is. If I added all the module demos to my playlists too, I doubt whether I’d actually ever end up getting any music finished.”
Looking at your touring schedule it’s clear that you take a wide range of gigs, whether DJing or playing live. How does your approach differ when playing out in different contexts? “Well, I try to stick to my guns in most contexts really. I rarely play warm up sets which is a bit of a shame as I really enjoy playing slower and chugging some music out at 116bpm. A couple of months back I played all night long at XOYO for Skream’s residency there. That was an opportunity to go really deep however the guy playing the first hour before me scuppered those plans somewhat. With regards to the bigger rooms, I’ll stick to my style. I find the theory of only playing ‘big room techno’ in a ‘big room’ complete bollocks really! So as they say, you’re telling me that because there are more people in this room the less likely they are going to be to respond to something with just the faintest of melodies or something vaguely interesting? Anyway, that argument is aimed at someone else and best saved for another day.
I think I’m performing live at Gottwood, which is something I’ve been consciously doing a lot less in 2015. The last few years I’ve been playing live at near enough every show and sometimes it just doesn’t quite translate. Not only that but I find that DJing more regularly keeps you more in touch and more inspired. When you’re touring as a live act it can all get a little insular, everything’s about you, the performance and preparation – the music is yours, this is you and there’s nothing else in between. I’m not sure that makes sense? Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that I’m selecting certain shows to perform live at, Gottwood being one of those shows.”
With you now making a conscious effort to DJ more, what music have you been feeling of late? “Mia Dora’s Un.sub on Optimo Trax stands out. I also finally managed to get my hands on a repress of Traumprinz’s Paradise With A Lobotomy. To be honest, it’s pretty safe to say anything by Traumprinz/DJ Metatron hasn’t been leaving my bag of late.”
What have been your favourite festival experiences down the years? “I’m lucky enough to be part of Freerotation Festival. It has been and always will be the highlight for me of each year. It’s just such an amazing small and low key festival experience that really is unlike anything else out there.”
Finally, what’s going to be your go-to drink this summer? “I’m going to shun the latest trends of Whiskey Sours and all that by sticking to the cheese with a Piña Colada. Yes, I know it’s a really shit choice, but this is a drink which is tried and tested, especially after being up all night. I will only drink it if it’s served in a pineapple though.”
Tom Demac will be performing at this year’s Gottwood Festival, which takes place in Anglesey, Wales, between the 11th and 14th June.
Words by Matt Gibney, 21 May 2015. Leave a comment
Artwork by Lucy Benson
Around a decade ago Jamie Teasdale flung himself into the consciousness of listeners worldwide alongside Roly Porter with the collaborative project Vex’d through the channels of Planet Mu Records. After putting out two much revered full-lengths, the pair decided to continue with their solo projects and from this, Jamie brought his moniker Kuedo to life. Sticking with Planet Mu, he released a couple of EPs and followed them up with Severant, a genuinely singular modern masterpiece that would go on to be heavily influential for years to come. Four years later, Jamie has now founded a label and art imprint together with Joe Shakespeare. With Knives, the two aim to encompass visual art, graphic design and a collaborative working process, functioning across genre confinements that exist in the creative industry today. Knives will soon have its first release from Truants favourite J.G. Biberkopf, and were heavily involved with Jlin’s fantastic Dark Energy that came out on Planet Mu this year.
For now, the label’s focus lies with concentrating on the select projects that have been lined up for the near future. “With Knives, we’ve got a really nice set of projects to work with already, and we really value the chance to work with such artists, so we’ll concentrate on coming through on those before we start taking much more on, or dreaming up bigger futures. It’s easy to slip into an competitive collection mentality when you setup a releasing platform, but you should be focusing on delivering a service for the artists who’ve entrusted you with their work. We’d rather work in a collaborative and mutually beneficial spirit, and focus on the materials at hand.” As for his own work, Jamie chooses not to talk up future Kuedo releases, as the last two years have been a long series of projects bouncing between label homes, and dividing out of one another. “At this point I think it’s better for it to exist first then talk about it. It will be on Knives, and it won’t be a retreading of a previous musical territory.”
Kuedo’s Truancy Volume parallels Knives’ ethos to defy borders and manages to seamlessly bond together all types of music that are exciting for club culture in 2015 – from the melodic vocals of Atlanta rapper Que to the transcending sounds of newcomer Sami Baha. Clocking in at just over forty five minutes, Truancy Volume 117 is a mixtape that’ll surely take you into another dimension, and shows that Kuedo is still roaming in an otherworldly realm; but one that is refreshed in 2015. “I wanted to do something influenced by club dynamics, but also I figured it should acknowledge that its going to be heard on headphones, at office desks, on the bus etcetera, rather than any actual living club space. So it loosens itself from rigid club logic and opens up some more airy spaces too. Last year I was testing the waters with discomfort and disruption in sets, this year I’m focusing on reconciling with the club space as an essentially social, celebratory space, and seeing how far you can work different zones into that without breaking down that social dance function. My own music in these past couple of years isn’t meant to have a club function, so I didn’t force it into the mix.” As for the perfect setting to blast this mix to? “I don’t know, I double checked it while sat in a doctor’s waiting room and it worked alright, seems flexible. I expect it will work in post office lines, bus stops. Various public transport & queue situations.”
(untitled) – J.G. Biberkopf
Flashlite ft. I-Octane – Ana Caprix
Sniper Riddim – Endgame
Maverick 1 – Sami Baha
CHUNKgodmodeEDITION – Sami Baha/Lotic
(untitled) – v1984
Kyselina – Drippin
Bounty – Amnesia Scanner
GFAAAB4mKWg3qAdMHrXRLk7a – v1984
Glowworms – Sharp Veins
Rigor Mortis – Shcuro
Shaded – Silk Road Assassins
(NASA) Domain Awareness System – Sami Baha
Kyoto – Drippin
Blood Trappings – Ninja Sword
Sliiingbraid – Sentinel
Celestial Sphere VIP – Nights Music
Climax of the Wolf Spider (Moleskin edit) – Rabit
Infrared (Bagua) – Jlin
Advanced – Ninja Sword
Ja Know Ya Big – Dillinja
Yes! Baby! – Ana3
That Cream – Carns Hill
Agnes Revenge – Objekt
08182013VX – v1984
MELT-BUGATTI_ – Sentinel
Words by Truants, 20 May 2015. 5 comments
The precocious Chester Watson has seemingly remained out of the bounds of rap’s radar; a lack of attention that could be framed, in addition to his music’s pillaring features (a tongue-twisting low-key rhyme, impending, decrepit instrumentals), as an ode to the DOOM-ish alternative underground sphere from which he scarcely crawls out—as much as he, as any other rapper, would grimace at the easy albeit lofty comparison. This board-hopper, apt for a Stones Throw landing as he is, goes unmasked; Watson’s musical project sounds like it could loosely stem from his Midwestern origins, less from his current Florida residency. As mentioned, his stock in trade alternates between his lyrical malleability and leery production chops, and with mixtapes like last year’s recommended Tin Wooki, wherein his own beats accounted for more than half of the extensive 28-track list, the final product is usually something to be consumed twice over: once to gape at an otherworldly snare or dodgy loop, and then to shudder at the rapping-half’s wry malevolence and follow his metal-tipped tongue. It’s not exactly unfortunate than that Guru Vol. 4 is another collection of just beats.
Guru’s fourth volume is only the third available as far as we can tell. Watson put out Vol. 2 just as many years ago and that remains to be the ostensible beginning of the series. If these instrumental mixtapes are themed, it’s subtlety so—Vol. 2 took on a bit of trippy vibe with left field textures and bass lines ripped from a Nightmares on Wax record, while its successor’s melodic/sample focal point generally centered around the Far East. But what Watson is arguably best at and does the most, in a production capacity, is icy gloom. It’s also the most common thread that has ran through the series up through this new volume. At twenty-something minutes a pop, Vol. 4 is a constant shuffle between unnerving compartments of atmospheres, as if these instrumentals were Watson’s way of retrospectively documenting a perilous subterranean escape from the layers of his conception of hell. What’s more killer? “No samples were used in the making of this project.”
Guru Vol. 4 was released on May 9.
With the name Hervè already taken, Italian born producer Hervè Atsè states he had to change his moniker to the next closest thing in the run up to his debut EP on Bosconi Extra Virgin in 2011. Nineteen years old at the time and a fresh name to the electronic music scene in Florence, the ‘Skin’ EP saw his debut release channel influences at a period where Herva was greatly interested in downbeat music. The soulful, downtempo house jams are a far cry, and almost a tad safe, compared to some of his more recent experimental productions on All City and Don’t Be Afraid, but they still served as a starting point for a young producer with a considerable talent to grow. In our interview with the young Italian, Herva mentions he owes the hookup with Bosconi down to his long time friend Marco (Dukwa), another Italian producer who he often collaborates with under the alias Life’s Track. “At the time I had not tried to send demos out yet. Marco was already working with Bosconi on his first EP and since he strongly believed in my music, he helped me to send some of my own productions to the Bosconi headquarter.” The person who received the music was Fabio Della Torre, co founder of Bosconi and an important figure in the Italian DJ circuit. Herva mentions that he’s forever grateful to Fabio for signing two young teenagers to his label, despite the risks of signing two unknown producers in a difficult Italian market. “There’s no big communication and not enough hype in Italy when releasing records. When you invest in new music and new artists it’s so much harder to get results, especially from two unknown kids with no releases yet.” Despite this, Herva still speaks with profound respect for the local talent in Florence, mentioning a long list of names that we should keep an eye out for. “There’s people like Dukwa, Bosconi, Dunk, Sciahri, Samuele Pagliai, Lorenzo, VSUM, Mirko Casalini, Biga, Lorenzo Ballerini and Emanuele Porcinai that are all doing their best to keep this city alive.”
Finding himself under the wing of the people at Bosconi, Herva soon found a second home with dutch label Delsin who put out his ‘What I Feel EP’ after a series of quick email exchanges with Marsel. “I tried sending a demo randomly after discovering an email on their Soundcloud. I’ve been really lucky to be honest as I think I found the right moment with the right music. After the “break through” email I sent more music to Marsel and he proposed the idea of an EP with them”. It’s clear very early on in our conversation that Herva isn’t limiting himself to any genre and wants to just have fun making music. One of the standout tracks from the Delsin compilation in 2013 was by the man himself; submitting a 156 BPM track called ‘Radio’s Mutterings’ in a sea of four by four techno productions. “I try to change things as much as possible when making music. I don’t care about BPM or genres. I make music at the speed that I feel to do it. BPM are just conventions otherwise.” His second album ‘Instant Broadcast’ is a testament to this, refusing to settle to any defining genre whilst experimenting with time signatures all across the LP. Juno described it as Drexciya, Skudge, Theo Parrish, Aphex Twin and Vibert all combined after a fistful of hallucinogenics which fits his ethos perfectly.
As well as producing solo and as Life’s Track with friend Marco, Herva has found a new production output in the form of an open collective with some of his Bosconi acquaintances. “Matteo Tagliavini made it all possible. He’s the mind behind Marmo Music as well. He organised our first jam session when I went to Berlin, and soon after we were joined by Mass Prod, Rufus and Raffaele in studio. According to Matteo, that night we jammed to music that could be described as the decline of western civilisation. We are now working on new music with different teams as Tru West is an open collective. I love this feeling, it’s not about who but just about the music.” When asked what else he has planned for the rest of the year Herva reveals a load of exciting news with some labels we love. “As Herva I have signed some tracks to Planet Mu, and I’ve also made a remix for Nick Höppner which is coming out on Ostgut Ton at the end of this summer. On the Life’s Track side, we’ll be releasing our first album in June on Bosconi and an EP on Opal Tapes (Black Opal) planned for June as well. In terms of Tru West we’ll be giving that a further nudge after the summer with a new EP on Marmo Music. All in all this year will be tough.”
Words by Riccardo Villella, 14 May 2015. 2 comments