Interview: Tinashe

Tinashe Interview Truants2

The most common introduction we have to emerging artists is a process of gradual budding. We see artists stumble through mixtapes of exploration and hesitation before they finally grasp a wholesome and comfortable identity for their debut effort to be presented to the world, but this has never been a scenario that quite fit Tinashe Kachingwe. The Los Angeles native’s first official album Aquarius is set to release this October via RCA Records and anyone who is familiar with Tinashe in the slightest knows that her body of work is already a force to be reckoned with. At twenty-one, she’s put out three bold mixtapes fueled by an air of casual confidence that’s unique for rising musicians today. Armed with skills of self-production and heightened level-headedness, all of Tinashe’s mixtapes are individually sharp creative statements that still haven’t lost their flair with time.

It isn’t only her solid discography and experience in production that set her apart. Tinashe’s music is a perfect representation of a new age wherein music is wonderfully unrestricted. Rather than a confinement of familiar genres, it’s evolved contemporary music that successfully incorporates elements from a myriad of burgeoning sounds, with vocally strong R&B being at the forefront of inspiration. Tinashe is a new type of artist that is self-reliant and knows exactly what she wants her music to sound like. As a result, her output sounds genuine, well-thought-out and keeps up with the times at any rate. Aquarius is one of the most cohesive and powerful pop debuts to hit shelves in years and acts as a worthy inauguration of Tinashe’s promising career in years to come. We had the delightful opportunity to speak to Tinashe during her brief visit in Amsterdam and discussed Aquarius, its creative process and her plans for the future among other things.

Hi Tinashe! How have you been? Is this your first visit to Amsterdam? “Yes it is! It’s been fun so far. It’s just so different from America. It looks like Disneyland or like a set or something, but it’s real life. We’ve just been walking around and doing some touristy stuff here, we went to the coffee house and checked out the red light district. [laughs]” I actually think it’s so depressing there! “It is! But you kind of have to check it out and experience it first hand, you know?”

Of course. I just want to start off with some questions about your new album. I had the feeling that with all your past mixtapes they all each had their own distinct themes. I read you describe Black Water metaphorically as the silence before the storm before this fall’s album.  Keeping that in mind, what do you think the main idea behind Aquarius is? “The main concept of Aquarius is that it’s supposed to be my debut to the world. It’s a metaphor for who I am as an artist. Black Water was the set-up for this and now Aquarius is supposed to represent Tinashe. The time is here, it’s a new era of music, it’s a new time of creativity.”

All of your previous mixtapes sound like they each really have an own thought process behind them. You seem to have a very clear image in mind of how you’ve wanted things to pan out so far. Do you consider yourself a well-thought-out artist, do you plan ahead a lot? “Oh yeah, thank you, definitely! Everything that I do is super strategic. I never just throw anything out there. Every step of the way I have reasoning behind why I do everything and I take it very seriously. I’ve been planning this kind of career for my whole life so I feel like everything is so important. So yeah, you’re right, it is very calculated. In a good way.”

How has it been recording this album for you? You made most of your mixtapes at home, so how has it been a different experience recording Aquarius, collaborating with bigger established producers? “Like you said I’ve been so accustomed to making everything on my own in my room. At first it was definitely a growing and learning process for me to learn how to collaborate with other people with an artistic opinion. To be able to get my ideas across and still feel like I was being true to myself while still working with other people. Because of that, the beginning  of the album process was a little slower, but then I really got more into it and became a lot more comfortable. Now, I definitely feel like I have so many songs that really represent who I am. I have too many songs, honestly. I’ve recorded over 150! [laughs] So that’s a lot. The selections have all been made though, so they’re getting mixed and mastered right now. It’s been exciting and now I’m really ready to just get it out. The album has been in the works for so long, I’ve been working on this since the beginning of 2013, so that’s a solid year and a half. It’s just going to be such a relief releasing it.”

I just heard the new track that dropped as well, “Pretend” with A$AP Rocky. so it feels a lot closer! That’s a Detail production right? “Yeah! Detail produced it and he’s pretty crazy. I will not lie. Of all the people I’ve worked with he’s definitely one of the more far out ones. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that he’s just a weird dude. He says crazy things, he acts crazy, he dresses crazy and he’s just quirky, but a lot of the times those are the people who creatively have a cooler perspective. It was definitely cool to work with him.”

How did most of the recording take place on your collaborations, did you actually get together to work on the tracks or was it more like a sending back and forth kind of thing? “It kinda depended on the song and the producer. Some producers really prefer to work face-to-face while others prefer to have their beats already made and then send them to you. In those situations I like to be able to take them home and record my own song, on my own time in my home studio still, because of that comfort and vibe. I’ve just gotten so used to that. So yeah, it depends on the producer. Sometimes they sent them back and forth, like Boi-1Da. He was one of the producers that would always send me beats and I would record at my own house.” What was it like to work with Boi-1Da? “Boi-1da is amazing. He’s a really sweet guy and he’s one of my favourite producers. I think everything he puts out is dope and stuff that I’m into. My taste just really gravitates towards his beats, he’s one of my favourites.”

There’s been a lot of talk of genre labelling with your music. You’ve addressed this in your Dazed interview as you said you don’t believe in either just pop, R&B or indie, but believe in a medium. The teaser you put out for the album definitely shows the more dark side of your art compared to for example “2 On“. Do you feel like you’ve established a happy medium with the album? “For me, definitely, I’ve established a happy medium. Maybe it does make it harder for people to understand my music because they can’t group it into a box. It’s not totally mainstream or totally indie, I do kind of bridge that gap. But I never feel pressured to be one thing or another, I like the fact that I can put out a song like “2 On” and then I can drop something that’s totally weird. People can think it’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen. I think that’s cool, you know? To make people uncomfortable and push their limits of comfort. People can get too comfortable with standards and labels.”

Totally. But you did mention that you’re quite strategic just now. So do you put a lot of thought into it in terms of trying not to make audiences too uncomfortable? “Hmm… I kind of just let it happen and see how it goes. In general my music does come full circle, so they’re never going to get too uncomfortable. Because for example, in interviews it’s not like I act like a crazy person. I’m pretty straight forward and down to earth so people can still look at that and think that I’ve got an interesting creative perspective. At the same time, I’m not trying to be someone that I’m not. At the end of the day, I don’t think that people think I’m nuts. But that’s cool too though! [laughs]”

What has been the most enjoyable song to work on for Aquarius? “My favourite experiences of recording are done in my own time and in my own zone. I still really love to record music in my bedroom home studio. So I think some of my favourite songs were recorded there, but of the songs that I did in major studios I would say “How Many Times”, which is a song that I recorded with Future in Atlanta. That was probably one of my favourite song recording experiences. We went to Atlanta, hung out with Future, we were in the studio and it was a whole collaborative experience. It was just fun, a lot of positive energy, he was really funny and he told a lot of jokes. He was light-hearted and he literally wore an American flag jumpsuit kinda thing. He’s a great personality so it was a cool experience.”

Considering everything you’ve gone through recording this album, what have you learned from the process and how has it shaped your outlook for recording your next album? “In the beginning of the process I definitely got caught up in the thought of working with all these amazing producers that I felt like I have to do it in these studios and in those environments. But like I said, at the end of the day, I came back to the same conclusion that when I’m able to zone out and take it into my own space and really be personal with it, that’s when I get the best stuff. So I think going into my next album, I won’t want to even be putting myself into such random studio environments. I think I’ll try to keep it more condensed and controlled, with less people involved. I also know which producers I work really well with now, whom I have chemistry with. I don’t have to work with people that I don’t gel with right off the bat, you know?”

I also wanted to touch upon your own productions for a bit, as you produced most of your previous work yourself. Do you feel like the fact that you have so much experience producing yourself has influenced how you collaborated with other producers? “Yeah definitely. It depends on the producer how it works out. Some people are maybe a little thrown off slash low key intimidated by the fact that I know what they’re doing. I’m very particular and I’m a perfectionist, so I’m very specific and I’ll let them know if something doesn’t sound right. I notice seemingly really miniscule things. To me they stand out, while to others maybe they wouldn’t. I think some producers aren’t necessarily used to people noticing those types of things. For some people that’s a negative thing, because they’re kind of intimidated or weirded out. They don’t expect me to have this whole perspective. Some people think it’s really cool though. They think it’s dope that I know what I’m doing, so it really just depends on who I’m working with for sure.”

Do you feel like working with so many big producers has changed how you as a producer look at your creative process? “Yeah! I think it has definitely pushed me to want to be better. It’s always inspiration and you learn a lot of little tips and tricks that different producers use. Just different strategies and methodologies to go about producing your songs. To know that kind of inside information, that affects the way that you create music.” What do you enjoy the most about producing yourself? “At the end of the day, I enjoy never having to rely on other people to create my art for me. I like to be able to know that I can still do it myself. I can still make stuff that sounds dope and not have to feel like it’s not going to be good. That’s my favourite part about being able to have these skills.”

What type of music and producers have influenced the most, in terms of production? “Production-wise, James Blake a lot. SBTRKT was a huge one too, still to this day I love his production in how it’s very unique and different. And then just a lot of the hip-hop guys as well, people that I have actually ended up working with like Boi-1Da, T-Minus and MikeWiLL. People who I’ve always admired and then to actually work with them is always fun.”

Lyrics-wise, a lot of your songs have a very strong theme of dealing with negativity, confidence in yourself and your unpredictability as an artist. I think your Drake cover was a good example of that. Even though you have a lot of experience in the industry with your acting background, what would you say is your biggest struggle as a musician who is yet to really emerge?  “It’s dealing with people who don’t take you seriously, for whatever reason. Whether it be because they just think I’m a cute girl and they don’t think I have a perspective. Maybe they think that I’m young, so they think I don’t know what I’m talking about. Or they think that it’s just a label-manufactured product and that I’m not a real artist. This is is something that I’ve been working on for a really long time, so when people don’t really take the time to understand that, when they just come and take it for granted, that’s frustrating, for sure. Of all things, that’s probably the most difficult thing to deal with. But I feel like people understand that more as they get to know me as an artist. But as “2 On” is my only official single, sometimes people think that’s the only song I have. That is not true at all. [laughs]” I guess it’s also extra difficult because “2 On” is much more radio-oriented than your other tracks as well. “Yeah, so people take that sometimes and they’re like ‘Oh, so this is Tinashe!’ but then I’m like.. really, you don’t know. Get to know, do your research!”

What are some things that inspire you to write, outside of music and your own life experiences? “I’m really inspired by nature, so when I go places that are really beautiful I feel very inspired. There’s something about that that brings out emotion in me. Like you said, life experience and other music, but then different types of art in general as well. Architecture, fashion, movies, painting, all that stuff is where I try to get inspiration from.”

You’ve been in the entertainment industry for a really long time as you’ve been in acting before this. What has your acting career taught you that you still use today as a musician? “What it taught me when I was growing up is that rejection isn’t the end of the world. People will reject you and it’s not personal. You have to continue to push. When you’re a kid and you’re going to auditions all the time and they don’t book you for things, you just realize that you didn’t get it but that it doesn’t mean that this is over. It’s not the end and I’m going to keep going. I think that’s a valuable life lesson, that when you hit road blocks or when things are seemingly bad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are as bad as they seem.”

You left acting to focus on music. Still, I saw in an interview that you still intend to pick up acting again after this. Why did you choose to focus on music first? “Music has always been my biggest passion at the end of the day. I really wanted people to know that music is something that I take very seriously. I didn’t want them to get confused and think that I’m an actress who’s just doing music for fun or a girl that’s just trying it out to see if it would work. It’s very important to me, so I wanted people to get to know me as Tinashe the music artist before I started doing all the other stuff.”

I read somewhere that your dad was a stage actor and that that’s how you got into acting. How has having a dad in the performing arts affected you? “He always encouraged me to be in front of people. He always encouraged me to sing in the house. My parents never told me that pursuing entertainment was a bad idea, they never tried to dissuade me from pursuing my dreams. For that reason I’m very grateful to my parents.”

What type of music did you grow up with at home?  “We listened to a lot of 90s R&B like Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Sade, Boyz II Men, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, stuff like that was always playing in the house.” And what was your first memory of being in touch with music that really made you want to pursue it? “When I was really young, I loved Christina Aguilera. She was my hero as a kid. So I think the first time I went to a concert it was Christina Aguilera and to see a stadium show, that energy, to hear all those screaming people, just the whole show, that’s when I thought to myself  ‘Okay, I can’t wait for that to be me! This is definitely happening!’ [laughs]”.

You’ve definitely been through a lot in the industry for your age. With all that you’ve experienced, how would you define success for yourself as an artist? “I definitely feel like there’s levels of successfulness. I do feel like I’m successful already with the level that I’m at, but I don’t think that I’ve reached the level of success that would fulfill me just yet. I have a long way to go with what I want to achieve. That being said, I feel like true success is just being very comfortable with where you are and not feeling like you could have done something more. That you’ve really achieved what you’ve worked for.” And do you feel like you are successful in that sense? “I do feel like I am, yeah. I feel like I’ve achieved a lot of goals that I’ve set for myself. But I have so many more goals. Yes, I’ve hit level one of success, but I have like twenty-five more to hit. I have very high expectations and we’re getting there. We’re building. It’s a building process.”

Where do you see yourself in three years?In three years, I hope to obviously have a couple of albums out. I’ll be having my own tours of the world at that point, where I can sell out giant shows for people everywhere and they’ll expect me to be around for a while. People will know that I’m a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the music industry.”

Tinashe’s debut album Aquarius is out on October the 22nd via RCA Records. 

Words by Sindhuja Shyam, 19 September 2014. Leave a comment

Truancy Volume 100: Ben UFO


We are very excited and honoured to be celebrating the hundredth instalment of our Truancy Volume series with a very special mix from none other than Ben UFO. The records released by Hessle Audio, the label’s essential sessions and of course the music Ben DJs have for a long time been consistent sources of enjoyment and musical inspiration for us at Truants and so today is an especially fitting way to mark this milestone event. For the Truants present at this summer’s Dekmantel festival, catching Ben play a set at the intimate Selector’s stage was a fantastic reminder of his qualities. For us, hearing (to pick but one example) Sizzla, Dat Oven and Soundstream played together in such a way that their disparate qualities complemented each other, and seeing the effect it had in the energetic dancing and happy faces of the crowd is sure to be a long-lasting memory. In addition to an outstanding mix, Ben also kindly shared some of his recent experiences and thoughts on music.

Has there been a shift in the sort of music you play in recent times? From personal experience of seeing you DJ several times I got the sense that your sets have shifted somewhat from house more towards techno? Is this accurate, and if so is it due simply to a change in taste or new discoveries, or is it also related to a particular “shift” in the type of music being released now?

“It depends where you’ve seen me play recently, and I guess also on the definitions you’re using. I’d be uncomfortable identifying as either purely a ‘house’ or ‘techno’ DJ, and I don’t think I sit particularly comfortably on line-ups which make a big deal of focusing exclusively on one or the other. One of the continuing reasons for this is that I can’t relate to much of the language used to describe house and techno – particularly the language people use to distinguish one from the other.”

In the past you have spoken about certain places – such as the Golden Pudel in Hamburg or Robert Johnson in Frankfurt, which you are especially fond of. In the past year have you had the experience of playing someplace new where you enjoyed yourself in a similar way?

“Freerotation isn’t somewhere new, but it continues to be one of the few places I feel able to fully immerse myself in the music when I’m not DJing myself, partly because of how much I like the environment, but I think crucially because I’m there for enough time to relax properly!”

Does locality/sense of place play a role in how you connect with certain musics?

“Absolutely – I think the way I see the music I play can’t help but be connected to my experience of playing it for other people in different places. That doesn’t mean my enjoyment of it is totally dependent on people reacting positively, but it does mean that I have a much less complicated relationship with music I only listen to at home.”

Switching from the perspective of a someone playing music to others to one of an audience member, have you recently seen any performances (whether by artists or DJs, new or established) who left a deep impression on you?

“I had a particularly good time dancing to Leif and Objekt at Freerotation this year. TJ posted the recording of his set on Soundcloud recently, and listening to it back at home triggered a big rush of endorphins and happy memories.

On a slightly different tip I loved seeing Bee Mask play on a Monday night earlier this year at Corsica Studios. The system in there has the power and clarity to do justice to his use of extreme dynamic contrast, but I think the most crucial aspect of my experience was the fact that I’d returned from Australia earlier that day, and was feeling totally disoriented and exhausted. My guard was down and the music hit me hard.”

In the past Hessle Audio show on Rinse.FM slot has been host to numerous interesting guest artists such as Bee Mask, Morphosis and Will Bankhead. Very recently you had a number of excellent guests on the show in short succession. Does the show’s regular, weekly nature give you more of an opportunity to have others play, and how do you go about coming up with ideas on who to invite? 

“The nice thing from my perspective about the show being weekly is that it removes any pressure I might feel to ‘represent myself’ fully whenever I do the show by myself. This is also something that’s become less of a concern over time, as hopefully by now our listeners have got a pretty good grasp of what we’re about as a label, and who we are as DJs. I see it as a nice platform to do whatever we feel like, whenever we feel like it. Our guests are generally people we have a pre-existing relationship with, and we try and ensure that it’s as relaxed a platform for them as it is for us.”

Moving onto potentially contentious ground…do you agree with the politics of the position that all cats are beautiful? Further, what do you think of the claim that the detachment observed in many cats is in actuality a performance of critique-via-disengagement of life under post-Fordist neoliberalism?

“I like cats.”

From the subtle, atmospheric sounds of the SUED camp; through Jamal Moss’ inimitable take on house, the experimentalism of 2562, Emeralds & Aaron Dilloway, arresting oddities from MGUN and Ruth White to propulsive techno from the likes of Planetary Assault Systems and Karenn, Truancy Volume 100 is full of special moments and its scope includes some of the most interesting music out there. “I wanted to record something cohesive from start to finish whilst still allowing myself to draw from a relatively broad pool of music,” Ben says. “As with my contribution to Radio 1’s Essential Mix last year, I was hoping to do something a bit more interesting structurally than just steadily building up the intensity and the tempo of the mix over the course of two hours – as a result these two mixes don’t exactly reflect what you might expect to hear from me in most club situations or at festivals. There’s an emphasis on tracks which shift the energy and momentum when they’re played during a DJ set and, relatedly, I wanted to try and include more experimental music in a way that didn’t seem tokenistic or throwaway.” In a number of ways this approach exemplifies many of the aspects of Ben UFO’s DJing which we love so much – the wide-ranging, thoughtful selections and the meticulous attention to detail that allow those disparate sonic strands to be tied together in an always-exciting way, but as important is the sense of humour, warmth and an unparalleled sense of curiosity and love for music which shine through and show why Ben UFO is one of the best DJs around.

Hessle Audio will release HES027 by Bruce on October 27th. You can also catch Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound on September 19th at Fabric with DJ Bone and Jon Rust, and in Berlin on September 20th at Stattbad with Beneath, Adam X, Ondo Fudd & Marco Shuttle.

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Words by Eradj Yakubov, 17 September 2014. Leave a comment

Mix: Pool Full Of Truants


A Truant thrives in the summer sun; our glasses of apple juice and Hennessy never tasted so sweet, and those songs that we have saved in our playlists are full of nostalgia. It was because of this that our newest crew mix Pool Full Of Truants was a no brainer, and probably the hardest yet simultaneously easiest mix to put together. Following our previous crew mixes Room Full Of Truants (a recap of last year), Tomb Full Of Truants (the most harrowing tracks we could think of), and Gym Full Of Truants (tracks to get shredded to), we joined forces once again and delved into our summer vaults to pick our favourite tunes to play on a sunny day. Thanks to the skills of our very own Stephanie Neptune, the result is an hour and a half mix to sit back and kick it by the pool to.

For now we’ll leave you with this mix while we leave for our holidays ourselves; we shall be back in August with brand new content, trax and the big one hundred in our Truancy Volume series. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and enjoy our crew mix, and of course your summer!

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Words by Truants, 30 June 2014. 1 comment

Recommended : Sully – Blue EP

sullysceneJungle has a special vibe unlike any of the sounds to come from the London. Like Ben UFO, most of us never went to Blue Note, Roast, Innersense, Thunder & Joy, A.W.O.L or Jungle Fever for that matter – guess it’s called jungle fever for a reason. The best we can do is cruise around in MA-2 jackets listening to old Kool FM rips. Sully’s aptly titled Blue EP captures all too well the mood of that time whilst placing it very much in the present, keeping the spirit alive for those who weren’t there the first time round and for those who still have the bug.

The emotion and stripped back nature of the tracks recalls any of the most skilled producers of that era. As Nookie already showed us all you need is a drum, a bass and a piano, a lesson which clearly resonated with Stevens as proved by his own track “Simple Things.” At a time when nothing is sacred he shows himself wise by not attempting to reinvent the wheel – although, unintentionally, he may have done just that. His hybrid eski rollage is a perfect marriage of two iconic inner city sounds. Whilst he holds back on the heavy reggae samples and air horns, the programming, especially on tracks like “Routine,” “Blue” “M141″ and the freebie rinse out “One Way” wouldn’t sound out of place in any Dr S Gachet or Randall and adds to collection of new wave eski/breaks tunes. This eski jungle tip has been experimented with by the likes of Fade To Mind’s Nguzunguzu on “Drop Cage” and Night Slugs’ grime O.G PJam on his Frankie Knuckles edit “Untitled” – so who knows maybe Wiley, who in his own words is “old skool like Randall & Kenny” will take note, or even better, it could inspire both the old guard and a future generation of emcees and producers. HRH MC Bassman once said; “How dare you try to test us? We are the Masters. Don’t you know our style is fucking dangerous?!” But this coming together of two distinct styles will hopefully lead to more hybrid records being made to tide us over until the sublime “Flock” featured in his Rinse showcase with Riko comes out – if it ever does.

Zomby’s Where Were U In ‘92 may have given you an urge to double drop some Pillz but this record will have you vibing at the back, in the darkest part of the dance with your warhead. A comparison with Nookie, Remarc, Chris Mack, HATE or whoever isn’t necessary here because it’s not a competition. This 8-track ep is just one man’s ode to and interpretation of timeless sound. If you like grime and jungle and don’t like this, there’s something wrong with you. No gimmicks and only a single fleeting glimpse of a Reese bass line on Logos’ superbly tense ‘Vapour dub’. You can always trust Keysound to come correct.

Stream: Sully – Blue (Keysound Recordings)

Blue  2×12 EP is out now on Keysound Recordings.

Words by Koyejo Oloko, 30 June 2014. Leave a comment

Recommended: Mohammad – Zo Rèl Do

mohammad620x380We’re sat in the town square. The sound of the life around us buzzes in our ears; the coherent yet unintelligible voices of our neighbours and the townsfolk find their way to us, occasionally belonging to children, and even less so women, as men vie to place theirs above the rest; the market stalls situated in the distance, perhaps where the discussions held in motion are headed; the busker, perched nearby, honing their craft as they channel the spirit of their surroundings through the woodwind extension of their own self. Our kindred wallflower’s notes meander in and out of village chatter, weaving through a bustle unconcerned by the world outside of its bubble, untouched by time. It’s a different time, and the people talk in their mother tongue but for one man who speaks in a nuanced, yet positively foreign way – even the flutist registers interest by way of a pause. His manner of conversation is more akin to a recitation, and the words that may not belong to but certainly arrive through him can be heard: “Because I love… I love the people. All the people.” And like a gargantuan ship announcing its presence in the black of night, or the sound of a dream being torn down and shattered, a bleak beacon sounds from the deep. So begins Mohammad’s Zo Rèl Do.

Mohammad is a collaborative project headed by Nikos Veliotis, Coti K. and ILIOS, who runs the Antifrost label they’re usually on. The three of them are either based in or have grown up in Greece, and first appeared on our shores by way of the often moving, occasionally petrifying and wholly outstanding Som Sakrifis, released on PAN last year. Returning to their home label, the group have plotted out a trilogy of records with the intention of exploring the sounds of “the geographical area between 34°Ν – 42°Ν and 19°Ε – 29°Ε” – the southern, Hellenic part of the Balkans, plus Turkey east of Istanbul, all shown on a map excerpt here. It would be a mistake to assume the vessel of such excursions is folk music however, as Mohammad are a three-piece consisting of a cellist, a contrabassist and one who experiments with the two using oscillators. They are keen to exhibit various descriptions attributed to their sound on their website as phrases like “chamber doom” and “monolithic” ring true for their music. (Another quote, “sonic rape” appears and apart from being wildly inaccurate, it’s an insensitive aggrandisement – Mohammad themselves are unconcerned by the weight of the embellishment, instead professing to be interested by its temerity despite their website’s keenness to use it as a boast.) Indeed the opening track, “Urso Nesto”, is one of the rare times vocals surface on Mohammad’s work, faint as the field recordings or samples are. It does seem that a bridge between times exists stemming from Balkan folk origins to Mohammad’s modulations, and the album cover of a woman in traditional Greek dress by a well depicts 1821 living. Still, as bow intersects with cello, awareness of time quite simply dissipates.

Stream: Mohammad – Samarina (Antifrost)

The range of emotions instigated by Zo Rèl Do is impressive, considering that it’s almost never positive. Generally, drone tends to be quite austere, though the thing that helps Mohammad thrive is the fluidity of the power dynamic between the trio; even if a lot of their sound is left in the hands of the oscillator, ILIOS rarely gets carried away, so when the contrabass carries a relatively static progression on tracks like “Kabilar Mace”, it’s balanced by the jittery and off-kilter shrieks of Veliotis’ cello. As capable as they are at adrenaline rushes such as on that track, they play the mood game at least as well, felt through the sparse eeriness of “Marik” which takes a couple of minutes to wake, or on “Grabe”, with its caustic riffage as the sound of strings’ attrition gradually erodes the mind too.

It becomes increasingly clear how much that opening track, “Urso Nesto”, was a fish out of water, though the group retain some surprises for the second half of the record. Zo Rèl Do’s most salient connection to its Balkan setting appears on the latter end of “Kounye A Zwazo Yo”, a vibrant and exotic waltz through stricken regality. The record draws to an end with several minutes of overlapping, percussive shakers, atmospheric in the way crickets are in the wild, more camouflaged than subtle as they occasionally excerpt of a rhythm slides to the top. It’s somewhat bewildering as it follows on from “Samarina”, a highlight that harbours more character than the other tracks. It takes its name from one of the highest villages in Greece, up in the Pindus mountain range, sitting ambiguously between the ancient states of Epirus, Thessaly and western Macedonia. Here the Latin people native to the southern Balkans – the Aromanians – can still be found, proud of their heritage in a town that culturally flourished as the dissolution of the Ottoman empire began. The track itself is searing, soaring and proud too, birdlike in its mannerisms, perhaps a bittersweet paean in tribute to a world or people past. Mohammad further their explorations in low-frequency inter-modulations on Zo Rèl Do, but at the very same time they encounter all the pitfalls between dread and loss, pride and awe.

Zo Rèl Do was released on CD in May 2014 and is available to buy from the Antifrost shop. Its vinyl release is due July 2014.

Words by Tayyab Amin, 26 June 2014. Leave a comment

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