Truancy Volume 100: Ben UFO

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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 Rinse.fm 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

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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

Interview: Maria Minerva

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She’s travelled across many, but there are no borders in Maria Minerva’s music. Dub basslines cruise alongside rave stabs, YouTube rips, 2-step kicks and waves of noise. Even her vocals fluctuate track to track, slipping from spoken word into torch songs. Despite the dissonant sounds, nothing is out of place. There could easily be a “look what I did here” quality to her work, but she sublimates each piece of the puzzle perfectly, get’s them to play nice. As much as her tenure in different cities, on different continents, must contribute to her patchwork sound, she’s often spoken about the internet’s role in both her inspiration and her career. That’s how she met Britt and Amanda Brown, the duo behind Not Not Fun & 100% Silk, who have released most of her music to date. She’s one of the few artists with records on both. Her tunes skirt the line between the woozy experiments of the former and the mutant club sounds of the latter. Before meeting face to face she even collaborated with Amanda Brown (as LA Vampires) on Integration, an album that sounds in the best way possible, like a Black Tambourine bootleg and a Bizarre Inc. cassette fused together in the back seat of a station wagon on a hot summer day. Shortly after the release of Histrionic, her latest album, we chatted briefly about her hometown, Naomi Wolf, Brooklyn winters, Trina and the 2080s.

Stream: LA Vampires & Maria Minerva – A Lover and a Friend (Not Not Fun)

You’re from Estonia right? What’s the artist community like? Did did you start producing there? “Yes, I am from the Estonian capital Tallinn. Well, the artist community is small, because the country is small, only 1.3 million people in the entire country, 400 thousand in Tallinn. So everyone knows everyone. I started making music in Tallinn during my last year of college but then I soon moved to London. All my friends in Estonia are really smart and well educated, the type of general knowledge of the world that I don’t often encounter in young people here in the states, where the peeps (I know) only care about pop culture OR are self-absorbed academics/intellectuals.) The Estonian scene is cool, because people have great senses of humour, they are political and sharp, self-effacing and critical. And so is their art, I guess. But my perspective is maybe a bit distorted, because I went to art school, and hung out with visual artists and curators and etc. I was never really involved in the music scene. There is definitely more happening there right now compared to when I left and I am proud to be an Estonian, I have no doubts about my identity at this point, though I sound more and more American every day when I speak. It is nice to have best of both worlds and be a part of both cultures.”

You’re based in Brooklyn now right? What do you like most about it? Any plans to settle down or has another town caught your eye? “I am moving to LA mid June. Brooklyn is cool but it is getting a bit too expensive; been here for a bit less than two years so I think I get the idea by now. Usually when people say that a city is “cool”, they mean the coffee shops, parties and vintage stores – I have been to so many cities that I’ve come to realise that the coffee shops, parties and shops are all the same everywhere. And I don’t care about any of these things that much these days, so I just wanna live in California where it’s warmer, cheaper and more chill. I really really hate the winters, I shut down completely and it is not a good time for me emotionally and socially – the east coast winters are brutal, NYC this year was all about the endless “polar vortex.” I didn’t leave the house for like 6 months. They say the music scene in LA isn’t that great there but to be honest I don’t really care, my label is there, I know a bunch of music people in LA and I just want to go hiking and cruise around, eat avocados and build this little life, I have been participating in the night life since I was 13 so it is not my priority, nor do I wanna be a fixture in a scene and always have to show my face everywhere. LA is better for being alone and since it is so big and spread out it, in the end, also makes one wanna be more social. I need that, in NYC I often just wanna hide, because here you’re always elbowing with strangers. The initiative to head to Cali came from my boyfriend and I have always been very selfish, done things my way, so this time I thought I will give life and love a try.”

Many of your records have a narrative or theme running through them. Do you approach each release with a concept, or is it something that happens naturally? “Naturally I guess. But I always only deal with the same themes which are alienation, loneliness, not being satisfied. Because that is how I feel most of the time (in a “good” way), so when I am making my music, for a moment I feel safe in that realm of art/music.”

Stream: Maria Minerva – The Beginning (Not Not Fun)

Do your lyrics contain any autobiographical detail? There’s an honesty to them, they feel very direct. How much do you separate your everyday experiences from your musical identity? “They do and they don’t. Autobiographical details – definitely. Just details. I like to write generic lyrics in a way, because the weird thing is that this IS what people relate to, no one relates to your absolute psycho-manic ramblings. Generic is good! But there are some more personal songs for sure, off the new album Histrionic I’d maybe bring out the track called “Treasures”, it is about this sex-based affair I had with a dude; kinda nice as it was happening but looking back I realised I was never once sexually satisfied with/by him and it struck me, because I was like – what WAS the point of all this in that case, if I wasn’t even satisfied, and most of the time we weren’t really getting along that well. So this theme of torturing yourself or weird submission to another person, emotionally and sexually. I feel the theme of female sexuality in music is not often present, there are female rappers who are “ballsy” enough to make a complaint about a guy being inefficient, like Lil Kim or Trina or whatever, but in the realm where I operate it is not very common. So when I listen to these female rappers for example I feel really super empowered and moved, and I guess every woman, be black or white, does too, because the not-being-satisfied is actually VERY predominant in the life of a woman (like 95% of the time) as opposed to a guy basically always getting what he wants. And I was tired of that, so the best thing I could do was to make a song. “Spirit of the Underground” is essentially about the same thing, of not being satisfied – with a social scene. I guess when I made that song I was in a bad mood! It samples “Don’t Stop the Music”, the funk classic by SOS Band, so it is supposed to be kind of an opposition between not wanting to stop the music and really wanting to make it stop. And feeling bored. But also I guess it is a typical case of having a first world problem, cause seriously there are bigger issues in the world than being bored with some big city underground scene (laughs). Get a life, Maria!”

Your past work has referenced philosophers Avital Ronell and Helene Cixous, are there any nods to thinkers in Histrionic that we should look out for? “As said, feminism means everything to me. On every level. Returning to the previous answer, then actually last year as I was making the album I was really influenced by this book “Vagina” by Naomi Wolf, I think it came out in 2012. Basically she talks about the same thing, women always being left sexually – and therefore also emotionally – unsatisfied throughout history; the difference between vaginal and clitorial orgasms and the taboos surrounding the latter (and the former, too). Almost like she wrote down the real history of female sexuality. That book is a must read, also for guys – who I guess generally have no idea of what goes on inside a woman. Cause it really IS complicated. She talks about everything, from emotions to some spinal nerves. It is not a philosophy book per se, but Wolf is a feminist thinker and amazing at what she does. She once did a talk at the same event where I performed so I almost met her. Another track,”Wolves and Lambs” is based a text I borrowed from Lautréamont, once again resonated with me cause it’s about self-sabotage, longing for love and understanding but then forbidding that to yourself, not allowing yourself to become a better/happier person.”

The album art on Histrionic is super entrancing, much like your music, just when you think you’ve nailed it there’s another layer. Mind if we ask how the design came together? “The album art was made by Antonio Trecel Diaz and Alexander Fleming, the photo is by Dan Allegretto and the legs belong to the NYC sound/noise artist Cammisa Buerhaus. These are all my friends. I guess we were on the same page with Antonio and Alex from the start, I wanted to use a physical detail; almost like a fetish object, and make it glam, make it roxy music, so we did just that! Really happy with how it turned out, it’s kinda 80s, but more like 2080s.”

Your music has such a broad palate yet remains unique, what’s your approach to folding other genres into your sound? “There is no approach, I’m just wandering in the dark actually, trying things out. I guess I constantly wanna pay homage while remaining unique, also I am a really bad producer and singer so I guess this is where the Minerva sound emerges from!”

Stream: Maria Minerva – Galaxy (Not Not Fun)

And finally, The video for Galaxy nails that early morning commuter haze. What do you listen to while traveling from place to place? “Well, sometimes I find an album or make a playlist and then listen to that like 2 weeks in a row, everyday on repeat. Like a kid. My favourite thing to do is actually walking while listening to WNYC/NPR, it really sucks that you can’t listen to the radio in the subway, so sometimes I just walk like 45 minutes somewhere in Brooklyn instead of taking the train so I could listen to the familiar NPR voices and think my thoughts, it has become a form of relaxation at this point. Old soul vibes!”

Histrionic is out now on Not Not Fun

Words by Stephanie Neptune, 25 June 2014. Leave a comment

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