Akkord. Δkkord. Whichever. The shadowy Manchester duo surfaced early last year, dropping a well regarded, self-titled EP on their own label. Having provided a mix for the esteemed Electronic Explorations blog early on, they subsequently featured on the weighty EE compilation the following summer. It was appropriate, then, that they would join the ranks at Houndstooth, fabric’s in-house label, run by EE’s Mr Rob Booth. First came the Navigate EP back in May, and now, at the year’s end, we’re treated to an album from these dark characters. While the revelation that the men behind the masks were in fact Mancunians Indigo and Synkro was less exciting than one might have hoped (just imagine the possibilities), it in no way took away from the power of the pair’s music. If you’ve been following their releases, and either listened to their RA podcast or watched their Boiler Room appearance, the sound of the album won’t come as much of a shock: dark, atmospheric workouts and percussive jams, imbued with an air of mysticism and wonder.
“Torr Vale” recalls Closer-era Plastikman (“Ask Yourself” was featured in that RA podcast), a cavernous drone preparing listeners for an hour of ominous portent. Despite the sci-fi movie feelings one feels the title in fact refers to a cotton mill in Derbyshire, UK. It now sits disused, reputedly in a lamentable state of repairs, this ode therefore harking towards an imagined incantation in a former site of industry. “Smoke Circle”, conversely, invokes feelings of dark nights spent around the fires of ancient shamans – forget the club, or even the rave, this is desert trance. Rattling tribal drums collide with throbbing bass and hissing white noise, while the groan of a spiritual leader sits quietly enough to attack your subconscious.”3dOS” is where things really get heavy, messing with your mind as it moves through drum patterns and flows like a time capsule of every rhythm that’s ever moved you.
Stream: Akkord – Hex_ad (Houndstooth)
Similarly unsettling is “Hex_ad”, which may well be the best 3/4 techno jam we’ve ever encountered. Just when you think you’ve got a straight-up banger, they switch it on you like that. After the dnb-meets-dark ambience of “Channel Drift” – which was released on tape as one of the various forms of promo undertaken ahead of the album’s release – we have “Navigate”, which sounds just as good here as it did in single format, and in countless mixes over the past six months. The clanks and moans of “Undertow”, meanwhile, close things out in sinister fashion, the hum of abandoned electronics and outlying winds offering no comfort or solace. If previous albums on Houndstooth such as from Special Request and Snow Ghosts were concerned with a folkloric past, urban or pastoral, then Akkord’s self-titled LP is most certainly focused on the future darkness that may await. It is indeed a triumph, a dark listening experience that should be shared and treasured.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 25 November 2013. Leave a comment
Last year Dutch producer Torus was responsible for the inaugural release on Sonic Router Records, the imprint borne out of the highly respected blog of the same name. A year later they teamed up to drop Yard Sale, a free release that was also available, like its predecessor, on cassette. Ahead of his first vinyl release, the limited marbled 7″ Feeel record, we caught up with Torus and talked YouTube sessions, other dimensions and the difference between a #sadboy and an #emotionalboy.
Stream: Torus – Feeel (Sonic Router Records)
So how are you? “I’m good man, Noisey NL just called me one of six most promising yung producers of NL which is sick, because we have a lot of yung producers. Who else is on the list? ”I don’t know all of them but two friends of mine, Know V.A. and BOEBOE, are on it as well.” That’s good to hear. Feeel is about to come out soon, how are you feeeling about it? “I’m feeeling pretty good about it. Most of the songs were already finished like a year ago, so there was a pretty long time between finishing it and releasing it. But I still feeel all of the songs, which gives me confidence.” That’s pretty important. “Yeah, like if I still like these tracks after a year, [that] must be a good thing.” Definitely. Have you seen the 7″? Yea man I got like eight sitting on my desk right now.” Nice, I can’t wait to see it. “Yeaaa man, they look fuckin amazing. So hyped about that. My first vinyl.” Moving on from tapes at last. “Haha, yea. It’s a big step.” Next time you get a 10″ and so on. ”Maybe, yea. Or I’ll try and see if there’s a way to do 8″, and add 1″ per release. Once I hit 12″ I’ll drop my debut album.”
Stream: Torus – Torus EP Preview (Sonic Router Records)
This is your third release for Sonic Router, and your first was also the label’s first – how did you first get in touch with Oli? “Basically, I was done making microwave beat shit and throwing them on Soundcloud and not looking back at it ever again, so I decided to start making an EP. I was going to self-release it, so I was contacting blogs about it, including Sonic Router. Then Oli told me that he wanted to start a label, and this was the kind of stuff he wanted to start it with, hah.” So it was mutually beneficial. “Yea, proper exposure for me and cool music for him.” And whose idea was it to start off with a tape? “Damn, I can’t really remember. I think it was my idea, I know I wanted to release something on tape for a long time already. Maybe Oli had been thinking about it before that though. I guess it just made sense for a first release too.” It was a bit different at the time. “Yeah, I guess I liked that. There were a couple of guys working with it already though like Leaving, so I guess it was just weird enough, because they sold out.” That’s always a good sign. Then this year, exactly a year later, you guys put out the Yard Sale – for free, but with the tape option too. “It was a free thing because it was mostly cuts from Feeel, but I still felt like it deserved a physical thing. So I hand-recorded like 30 tapes and stamped them and screen-printed the covers and made a mini poster.” That’s a lot of work. “It really was a lot of work. But I really liked to do it. Same with the whole Feeel thing actually. I made all the visual things, only this time we let other people do the physical work, so that’s how I found the time to do a video I guess.”
Stream: Torus – Shallow Depth
You’re really embedded in Sonic Router, having put out three releases now. Do you see yourself staying there for a while? ”I actually don’t know, man. I’m always open for other things if I fuck with it. But I guess there’ll always be a special bond with Sonic Router. I also know there are a bunch of things I make Oli doesn’t fuck with so that could always happen somewhere else.” So there’s room for exploration there. ”Yes, for sure.”
I really thought the Yard Sale stuff was darker than other stuff you’ve put out – but you say it came from the same time as Feeel? It’s definitely darker than the Torus EP. “Yea man, that’s true. Torus EP was really laidback, and when I was making Feeel it was really a time of experimenting with my sound and with vibes. Like you could see Feeel EP as a progression from really laidback stuff to darker stuff, and most of the Yard Sale stuff came from the part that I was working with that last part of Feeel. I guess I made ’2mrrw’ right after I finished Feeel at first, then I made ‘Tribes’ so Feeel was reinvented or something. And ‘Shallow Depth’ was around ‘Elsewhere’.”
What’s the process like for you when you’re making tracks? “Hmm, it’s really different every time. Sometimes I have an idea in mind for a long time, and then I sit behind my Macbook and I just make it. But sometimes I just sit behind my Macbook and I hear something I like and I just open Ableton. Or sometimes I just open Ableton and just fuck around and see what happens. I could be starting with a rap beat, but end up making a really ambient song, straight up ambient, because I only like the melody. Just delete everything except the melodies, and start layering, add fx, overcompress everything, add textures. It could really be anything. I guess it’s good not to have one pattern if you’re trying to be open to new things, and I guess there’s already kind of a pattern in your mind based on the things you like or don’t like.”
You say you make rap beats, have you ever worked with a rapper? “Sometimes I work with friends of mine just for fun, to step away from the deep layered thought-through vibes.” More raw, natural stuff? “Yea, more raw and more space for someone to go over it. But I did some things with Lofty305 from Metro Zu some weeks back that are probably coming out on his album. For me if it happens it’s cool because I make this stuff anyways, but if it doesn’t it’s okay because I got something else I’ve been working on too.”
You’re studying in Rotterdam right? “Yep. I’m doing Graphic Design at the Willem De Kooning Academy of Art.” Is there more of a ‘scene’ (for want of a better word) for music there than in your home? “Well, the thing about Holland is is that its so small that it doesn’t really matter. But I feel like the most things happen in Amsterdam for the ‘scene’. Rotterdam is more house and techno focused (they got Clone records). But at the same time they have Buma Rotterdam Beats Festival. So everywhere there’s places for it, but most of it happens in Amsterdam.” Do you go down to Amsterdam much? “Yea, I play there pretty often. I actually got my Feeel release party happening over there. It’s at this club close by Amsterdam central station called Bitterzoet on November 21. It’s gonna be really cool. I got all my producer friends to do a b2b2b2b.”
You said in the Nikola Zecevic documentary that you’re also into photography, graphic design, and fashion – how does this tie into your music? “Hmm, I guess that I’m just always open to every way of creative expression so with that mind-state I can keep from limiting myself and keep experimenting, whether its sound or image, and obviously I make all my own artwork.” There’s something very elegant about the font for Feeel. Did you choose that? “Yes I did! And thank you. It’s a stretched version of Times Bold.” Hah, yeah the kerning seemed a bit wide. In a good way though. “Yea, that too. It makes it look even more stretched. Maybe it’s a thing, with length comes elegance.”
With the artwork, and part of the video, some of it seems kind of retro, almost Windows 95 – is that deliberate? “Well I guess, yea. I like how everything looks really digital, and if I would spend all this time to make it look really realistic it wouldn’t make sense any more. The whole idea was to take organic stuff and take them out of their context and place them in a non-organic environment. And the more it looked like that the more the image looks digital and non-organic I guess.” I was looking up the word torus and i came across 3d imaging – and that stuff always makes me think of Homer Simpson going into the third dimension. Speaking of taking things out of their environment. “Hah! Yea man that’s it.”
I’ve noticed some Soundcloud tags like “emo” and “I want to cry”, are you a #sadboy at heart? “Wait did I tag that? [Laughs] I think Oli did. But I think I did tag my stuff as emo, for fun. But yea, I’m not really a sadboy at heart. Maybe more of an emotional boy for sure. #emotionalboy. I can listen to Drake’s sad songs all day.” Oh yeah, two Drake tracks in your mix! Who did that cover of “I’m On One”? “It’s Bei Maejor. He does a lot of R&B piano acoustic covers, so sick.” When I got the mix I sent Oli like three or four emails in a row, it was an emotional experience for sure. As he said, you really nailed a vibe. “Yea man, I don’t like to make a mix and just put all the recent hits in 30 minutes or some shit. Everyone else is already doing that. I kinda approach a mix almost like it’s a song. Like the first song, adding things together in a way I like to listen to it. With the Tim Hecker song and some cassette recs.” It’s such a Truants mix though, with the Drake stuff, and starting with the Mariah track – just like our Club Full of Truants mix did. It’s like you knew! “Damn, you’re right. I actually didn’t know, that’s so cool.”
I wanted to ask about a sample you used – the Spirit of Truth angry reverend guy. How did you come across that? “A while back I was staying in Brighton with a friend of mine Perry that produces under the name Warm Thighs. I was there because I was playing a show with him and Shlohmo and Salva for Donky Pitch, which was amazing by the way. But he showed me this vid, that’s basically what we were watching the whole weekend, such an amazing video. And when I was making Feeel a couple of months later, I just really felt like adding his vox to the track “Chopsticks”. It adds a lot to the transition, I guess.” It’s a bit wild. Certainly the angriest thing I’ve heard from you. “It is really angry, isn’t it? But it’s not that angry at the same time because you know it’s kind of a joke if you’ve seen the video. But in terms of the sound only, it is angry. Everyone should see the video though. I think they’re on crack or something. The camera guy as well.” Have you ever seen the worst rap battle? “YES. I always wanted to use that sample instead of Spirit of Truth. C im da bess mane, I deed it.“
Stream: Rick Ross – U.O.E.N.O. (Torus Rick Ross’ Regret Remix)
You said you were playing in Brighton – you DJ more than play live right? ”I do, but that’s because I always get asked to play at clubs. That was live though at Brighton.” What’s your live show like? “Since I don’t do it that much I don’t have one specific way to do it. The last time I played live I had My Macbook with Ableton, my MPD and a Mic thru the sp-404 for fx. So I have some songs of mine chopped up and some of them just whole but with certain parts left out, that I can fill in myself with for example my computer keyboard to play synth solos, and I use the mic to add the vocals and control the fx on the sp404. With my MPD I mix everything and trigger one shots and other fx.” And when you DJ – what’s your vibe? “I guess when I DJ it depends on what the vibe is in the club too and what kinda party it is. But most of the time I really get in a party vibe. But at the same time I just play what I wanna play so it’s like a party curated by Torus.”
When was the last time you danced? “What do you mean? Like dancing in general? Man, I dance all the time. Last time I danced was probably right before this interview while I was making a bacon and egg sandwich. I think I was dancing to this.” And what’s your drink of choice? “I guess Capri Sun Safari Fruits” You love Capri Sun! “Capri Sun is just dat drank.” You should watch this. “Haha, everyone sends me that video!”
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 20 November 2013. Leave a comment
Stream: Koett – Golden Peak (Atomnation)
Last month we recommended Lost Time from Russian producer Koett, the first single from his upcoming album Golden Peak. We loved its jazzy leanings and sunny melodies, and reveled in its warm 60s revivalism. It’s with great pleasure that we can bring you this exclusive premiere of the album in its entirety ahead of its release next week. Expanding on the same template as the opening single, Golden Peak blends bright, jazz-influenced house music with twisted electronic workouts. Opener “Assembled”, fittingly, gathers all these elements together, introducing what will be the album’s key touchpoints – dusty pianos, mellifluous synth lines and crisp percussion. The title track takes crashing percussion at 140 and twists it into a frenzied wigout, while “I Am Fly” is all flutes and emotion, like a minor-key rendition of “Lost Time”. Penultimate track “Dew” stands out in more ways than one, an extended ambient interlude that eschews excited tempo to tug at heartstrings and cleanse palettes, while the frozen guitar samples and jaunty kicks of “That’s Stuart” round things off with tongue firmly in cheek. All told it’s a thrilling listen, one we’re delighted to be able to share with you. Enjoy.
Koett – Golden Peak is out on November 25 on Atomnation. Order here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 19 November 2013. Leave a comment
As far as mission statements go, Awesome Tapes from Africa has one of the most self-explanatory there is to be found. When he’s not performing his excellent low-tech DJ sets, label owner/blog runner Brian Shimkovitz dedicates his time to gathering cassette tapes from the far reaches of the African continent. Whether it’s hip-hop from Burkina Faso or folk music from Eritrea you’re searching for, chances are you can find it on his blog. In special cases where Brian sees fit (and presumably when the artist can be tracked down to organise it) we’re treated to an official release.
Shaka Bundu by Penny Penny, the latest such case, was originally released in 1994 and comprises eight tracks worth of Tsonga Disco. Joe Shirimani (a bonafide star in his own right) produces these tracks where the four-to-the-floor and synthesisers of disco and house are built upon by the afrobeat percussion and Latin inflections of traditional Tsonga music. The result of which is track after track of uplifting, high energy fare which will leave only the stone cold without a smile on their face.
Standout track “Shichangani”, which also serves as the opener, makes heavy use of a call-and-response system between Penny Penny and his backing singers. This will be recognisable to those of you who were swept along by the Shangaan Electro bandwagon, music which originates from the same region of South Africa. Built around a synthesised organ bassline that could still have the wide eyed occupants of a dancefloor stomping away in disbelief, “Shichangani” is the track from this release that you’ll find yourself humming days later. Other highlights include the similarly euphoric “Dance Khomela” with its Italo-esque, lyrical piano chords and “Zirimini” which features more of Papa Penny’s trademark rasping, only this time a trumpeting elephant is invited to the party. Really.
If there is one criticism to be made of Shaka Bundu it’s that (elephant aside) the sound doesn’t deviate too much from the path. Having said that you have to remind yourself that this was made in 1994 and the folklore suggests that Joe Shirimani was recording using nothing more than an Atari computer and a Korg M1 synthesiser. Couple this with the amount of fun you’ll get from these forty five minutes of listening and there isn’t too much to complain about. It might be the self-evident chemistry between Penny Penny and producer Shirimani that keeps you listening or it might simply be the novelty of hearing something new. Whatever you put it down to, there are certainly good reasons that this sold over 250,000 copies in South Africa first time round and those reasons still stand today.
Penny Penny – Shaka Bundu is out now via Awesome Tapes From Africa.
Words by Matt Coombs, 19 November 2013. Leave a comment
One thing Tom Reid can never be accused of is a lack of versatility. Whether he’s been channelling UK garage or producing pared-back house tracks, all of his records under his Mosca moniker seem to pursue different sonic territories. It’s perhaps no surprise that the man is yet to release on the same label twice. With his A Thousand Years Wait EP, the London-based producer arrives on Delsin offshoot Ann Aimee with a set of rough techno weapons.
Opener “It’s Not What It Looks Like” has been on frequent rotation since we first heard it on the Hessle Audio Rinse show back in September. It’s a minimal stomper; propelled along by its powerful kick drum and clattering percussion. Intermittent synth pads offer only brief respite from what is an overwhelmingly dark and brooding affair. “Kneecap” opts for a similar take-no-prisoners approach with abrupt pummelling percussive strikes giving way to hauntingly offbeat piano chords and a distorted synthline. “Press Up” concludes the EP but is arguably the weakest offering here. That’s no slight however; this is a slice of deeply industrial minded techno which will undoubtedly function well as a DJ tool.
A Thousand Years Wait may lack some of the immediacy we’ve become accustomed to from Mosca’s back catalogue but these are three raw techno cuts perfectly primed to do serious damage on any dancefloor. Furthermore, the EP serves as additional proof that few producers can match Mosca when it comes to diversity, with each new release seeming to unveil a new direction for this talented producer. For the time being at least, it seems there’s very little the man can’t do.
Mosca’s A Thousand Years Wait is out now on Delsin’s Ann Aimee label.
Words by Matt Gibney, 15 November 2013. Leave a comment