For Seven Plays, each week one of our contributors will keep a personal music diary for seven days, then hands the feature over to another Truant at the end of the week. The idea is to keep sharing great music with our readers, but with a more individual touch than our more objective posts and reviews. Our third installment comes from TT heavyweight Tobias Shine; everything from lethal Jersey, South African dance music, Prince, and much, much more.
Saturday: Marcus Mixx – The Spell (Ron Hardy Club Mix)
“Hey yo, I’m Tobias and I’ll be carrying you through my week of listening pleasure! My brain is mush right now thanks to Kowton and Tessela laying rest to the club last night and I’m also kinda deaf in my left ear so what I write about this may be a little off. It’s amazing that this slice of pure bliss was only properly released to the world in 2006, despite its creation circa ’88. This one is just vibes on vibes on vibes and completely nails the scat melancholia brief. The flip (‘Without Make Up’) is beautiful as well. Just going to smoke about five ounces of weed and bathe in those claps.”
Sunday: DJ Lag – Ghosts on the Loos
“The dance music of South Africa has a history as long and dense as Chicago’s and I’ve only just started journeying down that path, but DJ Lag’s brutalist style feels so current. I could have picked any of the raw af trax on his kasimp3 page (which is a great resource for SA stuff) but this one sums it all up pretty well – dread atmospherics and that relentless, punishing drum sound. The way the tracks slowly build creates such high-pressure tension but never releases, the sounds just slowly suffocate the atmosphere around them. Kwaito is so dope because on the other side of super minimal stuff like Lag, DJ Lusiman and DJ Snaxxzo you have the more euphoric sounds of people like Big Nuz and DJ Spoko (who will put out an EP with Lit City Trax soon). Also highly recommend the interviews and mixes (here and here) Okzharp did for Blackdown’s blog after a trip to SA, whole lot of amazing music and information in there!”
Monday: Dexter Duckett – Pure Massacre
“Since Soraya shouted Air Max in her Seven Plays, I gotta show love to another Australian producer doing it big at the moment. Dexter is a kid from Adelaide with fire in his belly and a whole lot of cool ideas in his head. This one had me and my girlfriend ballroom dancing together, which is weird because this is track is super sinister and those twinkling bells makes the whole thing really chaotic and paranoid. Anyway, really feeling all the stuff Dexter is doing – stay tuned to TT to find out more about him.”
Tuesday: Beyonce – End of Time (DJ Big O + DJ Sliink Rmx)
“It’s no secret that Jersey is the best but it doesn’t get much better than Sliink and Big O going in on a Bey banger, those vocals fluttering so beautifully around the stereo field. Jersey has such incredible impact and momentum and is obviously lethal in the club. This is an oldie but there are so many people making sick trax at the moment: Irresistible, Problem, Kay Drizz, Yung Kidd, Albyy, Uniique, Tricks, K Deucez, King Tiger Z… the list goes on.”
Wednesday: Prince – Erotic City
“Ugh, I feel like this is such a missed opportunity. Like, yay, Prince – TIP! But whatever, I can’t deny that I’m obsessed with this today so it would be against the rules to leave it out. :~( On repeat, one after the other after the other. AFTER THE OTHER. Haven’t rinsed a track this hard since I rediscovered “Crush on You” the other day.”
Thursday: DJ Karfox – Fodencia Massacre
“The music coming out of Portugal at the moment is just so, so good. You would have heard of kuduro, the most visible producers being Marfox and Nigga Fox, but there is a whole school of kids working underneath them, taking up the fox name and heading to soundcloud who are making incredible stuff. There also seems to be more happening than just kuduro. Fodencia (translating, fittingly, to ‘fuckery’) is a super raw and stripped back style of tarraxo or tarraxinha, which people sometimes describe as a slowed down kuduro. (Tarraxo usually runs at around 90-100 bpm, kuduro at 130-140). I know, the genres can be confusing, their multiplicity compounded by a long history and development as well the music’s intercultural nature (being a mixing pot of, from my understanding, Angolan, Portuguese and French traditions). Fodencia is based around staggering triplet structures which make the whole thing sound really broken and wonky but also make it really, really fun to dance to. I also love the way these guys work with vocals, this one is a perfect example but how about this Nervoso and Onorato trak that uses a screaming girl as its hook!? SO sick. If you’d like to learn more about fodencia/tarraxo this article and this compilation, compiled by Marfox himself, are a great start.”
Friday: Iron Soul – Chinese Water
“Been rinsing Iron Soul, which is Kromestar’s earlier grime moniker, heavily recently. I haven’t heard many other producers in grime who work with soul samples and chipmunk vocals, except maybe Blackjack, but it just works so well. You can hear Mssingno’s happier days in there somewhere. Iron Soul was also capable of super cold, industrial stuff (see: Vulcan and Whistler off the South Side EP) and brings the Eastern vibe on this beauty. It’s just that classic starry-eyed melody that makes you feel all special and sad at the same time, like all the best ones. I actually wanted to choose ‘Art of Music’, which really tugs at the heart strings, but I couldn’t find proper audio anywhere. :(
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoyed my picks! Handing the feature over to my boy Matt for next time.”
Read our previous instalments of Seven Plays here and make sure to catch Matt Gibney on his Seven Plays flex next week.
It’s time for the 96th installment of our Truancy Volume series and we’re ecstatic to have secured the services of 22 year old Canadian Rook Milo for the task. A celebrated maestro in the more emotional circles of Soundcloud, Rook first came to our attention when he was earmarked by previous TV-contributor Ryan Hemsworth as one to keep an ear out for in an article for Interview Magazine. It would probably be fair to say that Ryan indirectly puts us on to a whole heap of great underground artists, but this guy in particular struck a chord. Back at the release of “Cobalt Polo”, the particular track that was flagged up, young Rook’s signature was a dazzling hip-hop, placing somewhere between the Glaswegian LuckyMe giants and L.A. Brainfeeder beat gurus. Since then his sound has very much matured. The most notable examples, his remixes of Drake’s “The Language” and Travi$ Scott’s “Upper Echelon” are more spatially aware, almost desolate with only the occasional underlying supernova; certainly not of this world.
The mix itself encompasses all of the above in just short of an hour. The first half is somewhat indulgent in its own beauty, packed full of unreleased material from your boy Rook and a few of his influential friends, leading in to a power half hour of sorts, featuring big hitters such as Lil Durk, Waka Flocka and Ty Dolla $ign. We also managed to catch a few words, tackling his ASL Singles Club affiliation, the Vancouver music scene and the struggle of finding a suitable moniker in this day and age that hasn’t been taken by somebody making “punchy EDM shit”.
Hey man! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! How are things? “No sweat, things have been really good for me this past year – pretty much since last may everything’s fallen into place.” I wanted to start off with some background stuff. I guess this is one of your first interviews, if not the very first! Would you give us a few words of introduction? “Yeah man, feeling pretty blessed for that to be with Truants. I guess the basics are that I’m 22, living in Vancouver, B.C (s/o Canada) and I’ve been making tracks since 2012-ish.”
You’re at university, right? What are you studying? “This is true. Right now I’m attending Emily Carr (ECUAD) rolling into a design program, hopefully eventually learning this and that about print design once things get going next September. I’m working as somewhat of a graphic intern for a shoe company right now and learning from school at the same (damn) time.” So are you set on doing that in the long run and having music as a fun thing to do on the side, or vice versa? “Right now I could see myself making a living off graphic design and enjoying it, but I really don’t know this early on. Honestly, I can’t really see myself making solo music more than a hobby – financially I’m dreaming that one day I can just produce for vocalists and rappers, seems like there’s room for that nowadays without losing yourself behind the artists. S/O Rich Homie Quan.”
Your Tumblr‘s really impressive! It’s all your own work, right? I’d imagine the audio/visual combination is something that’s particularly important to you. “Thank you :^) !! Mostly, I’d say it’s all either me or something that includes me by my friends. I’ve always had a thing for producers that pair great music with an equally appealing image, definitely something I want to progress with through video work because at the moment I’m just making cover art.”
Would you talk a little about what inspired you to start producing and what those first few steps were like? “Well, I grew up in a city called Kelowna that’s about four and a half hours away from Vancouver in-land, and outside of being known as a dubstep hotbed there wasn’t much inspiration for me there. I really started making music as most do, listening to a bunch of good music that my friends and I all bounced off each other and thinking “Hey maybe I could make this shit.” Beat scene stuff from L.A. in like 2008 got everybody I knew real excited, and it was probably around then that I started collecting gear and messing around, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I started actively working on things and trying to get better.”
Stream: Drake – The Language (Rook Milo Remix)
As I understand it, you put some of your earlier music out under the name of Mosey. Any particular reason for the change? “I was using a bunch of funny names before I settled on Rook Milo – Gully Mane, Coombs, and Softgram just to name a few. Mosey was the product of so much trial and error that I felt relieved to finally have something I enjoyed to call my own, but right as I was getting ready to commit to it I found a popular French guy who had been using the name for some punchy EDM shit or something. Either way I was bummed and spent about two weeks thinking about something to replace it. I switched to Rook Milo right when things started happening, and it seemed like people liked it and I’m always reminded of Baby Milo by Bape which is a nice touch.”
We just noticed that your remix of Drake has nearly 200,000 listens on Soundcloud, which is incredible! That must be pretty encouraging for you as a relative newcomer? “As much as that’s been exciting and motivating I get a bit nervous for the pressure to follow up – mostly just siked about it though. Praise to all the people out there supporting your boy, real tho.”As well as that, you’re getting a lot of support from other artists! Ryan Hemsworth, DJ Slow and Ta-Ku have all put your stuff in their mixes. These are all people I’d imagine you look up to? “I get really excited whenever I see an artist I listen to follow up on what I’m doing – always making sure to get that screenshot for the collection haha. S/O Ryan Hemsworth though, he’s been the biggest push for me for sure. I’m hoping that one day I’ll get a chance to help somebody out like he’s helped me.”
Following on from that, I’d be really interested to hear about your influences. There’s obviously a strong hip-hop element, but some of your stuff, like the ASL release, suggests different, electronic genres come into play too. What sort of stuff would you say you’re inspired by? “Things changed since my first EP called 2ko which had four songs, and of that only “Cobalt Polo” and “Luxury Sedan” are out now. I was on that glistening, heartfelt dance-trap whatever tip just trying to fit in on Soundcloud. Back then I was all about something that basically just sounded light and fun, but now I’ve grown into darker industrial stuff for some reason. The biggest thing that’s changed for me is tempo – where I was mostly working and listening to stuff from 120 – 140 it’s moved to 110-130.”
One thing I’ve picked up is that your music tends to be pretty emotionally charged. Outland and Cobalt Polo in particular have this really strong sense of longing in them. Is that something you’re conscious of when writing? “Cobalt Polo was my first lil hit so I’ve gotta respect it, but I’m really over that sound (it’s off my Soundcloud, sorry people). I wouldn’t say that with that song I was trying to make something emotional, but I’m definitely trying to push some feels with both Outland and my new stuff. Sad boy music just seems easier to convey than some happy-go-lucky stuff.”
Another thing that comes to mind is that you have this ability to take samples that are already fairly well known and flip them so that they sound really fresh. The same goes for your remixes too. How do you go about choosing the source material for these? Is it pretty intuitive? “Sampling for me sits somewhere between recording some kitchen sink type sounds and just messing around with fairly recognizable percussion – a nice blend of unique and familiar. That’s just the kind of stuff I enjoyed from artists when I was getting into production, so it’s something I value to carry on in my own way. I think things like pieces from rap acapellas or vocal stabs keep people interested when they hear your song the second time around, something to anticipate I guess.”
Stream: Travi$ Scott – Upper Echelon (Rook Milo Remix)
Canada’s a big hotbed for breaking a lot of great new artists right now. What’s the music scene in Vancouver like? Is there anybody in particular we should be on the look out for? “It’s fairly diverse, and definitely not oversaturated so there’s lots of room for new artists. I’m loving it because I grew up in a town with basically no electronic scene at all, and yeah bruh, the fam’s out here – both audio and visual need to get mentioned. On the music side there’s Project Pablo and Heartbeat(s) both doing their part making that good house music, Oshea Adams and Evy Jane with serious vocals, Sangnoir doing big things on the come up, the homie Darko Boy making that raw shit and like a ton more. On the visual side I gotta s/o my boy Antosh.ca who’s making all the footage from my shows so far, my dude Chef aka DJ Boogie Man on his graphic game, and the man Shun Kinoshita pushing his brand MMVIII.”
You’re pretty heavily involved with those guys from the ASL Singles Club, right? How did that all come about? “I’ve been rolling with them playing shows in Vancouver ever since I met Project Pablo (then 8prn) on Soundcloud half a year before I move here. I kicked around their studio space quite a bit and we’d always link up to catch whatever show was going on at the weekends. The dudes running it are Project Pablo, Heartbeat(s) and Chef – doin big things pushing for diversity in their label. For the most part I’ve always just kicked alongside them as part of the fam but on the label side I’m not very involved, outside of playing ASL shows together and my release back in November.”
Let’s talk a little about the mix you’ve done for us! What can you tell us about it? “As far as content it’s got a bunch of unreleased shit, a couple from friends and lots from me. The intro is a lil improvised beat I made right in the set because I was trying to mix in a remix I made as the second song but couldn’t find anything that would work. Other than that it’s basically split in two, with some smoother stuff in the first half and some heavier things in the second.” How do you find doing mixes, both like this and in a DJ set, in comparison with producing? “Making this mix was hella fun because I was trying different ways of blending stuff, more comparable to producing because I had access to my usual toolkit. At the moment I try to keep my sets fairly straight forward – mixing without much improvisation. DJing is still kinda new for me, so I keep it to the basics so as not to mess up, haha.”
What do you have planned for the upcoming months? More shows, releases? We also noticed you did some work with Yung Braised a while back. Is there some more work with rappers/vocalists on the cards? “So much new shit it’s exciting. I’m sitting on so much stuff I need to put things out before I get sick of all of it! Some remixes for sure, but more importantly is an EP with my friend Shun Kinoshita and his brand that I mentioned earlier – we’re doing my first release party and I’m so siked for it. I’ve also got a wonderful song with my dude Oshea Adams on the vocals and some other things that are under wraps for now!”
Finally, some old favourites of ours. What’s your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “I’d have to say Jameson and ginger ale w/ lime, that one’s the Kelowna homie house special, and I danced like 10 minutes ago with my girl to “Macaroni Time“.”
Words by Matt Coombs, 16 May 2014. Leave a comment
Three-Peat is our feature spanning genres and labels to bring you three select releases from the past – whether the past month or the past year – that still deserve your attention. This edition we’ve selected three 2014 releases from British (off)beats label Astro:Dynamics. This isn’t a potted history of Ast:Dyn, however – for that see Scott Wilson’s lengthy primer and interview with label owndeOwen at Juno Plus. Instead we’re going to look at three of this year’s releases: from Alis (formerly Subeena), Nenado and Lord Skywave.
1. Alis – Things Next Door EP
Since adopting her Alis alias, Sabina Plamenova has been experimenting with sound on a variety of labels: from chuggy house and techno on Don’t Be Afraid to the even more dancefloor-focused Apache on Fifth Wall, she’s demonstrated an ability to assume different styles in different homes. The Things Next Door EP came about after she bought a loop pedal and brought it on a trip to Sofia. Alone in a foreign city, she sat down and got to grips with this new kit, playing around with her own vocals and fashioning music largely unlike anything she’d released before. The opening thud of “11” thumps as if Alis was recording through a stethoscope, not a loop pedal, and her repeated vocal utterances lend a paranoid urgency to the track’s droning patterns. “020” opens with a lighter touch, her gentle hummings swimming around each other before drowning in swathes of layers upon layers. “Leslape”, closer to Plamenova’s other releases, thudders and chugs along with staid determination. Ethereal whispers swirl about, however, lending a mystical air to what could otherwise be a pedestrian number. The title track, which closes the EP, is the most other-worldly track on display, a serenely open blast of ambient drone. While experimental affairs often lose sight of coherence or narrative, this release displays talent, innovation and ideas, never sacrificing heart in favour of technique.
2. Nenado – Your Sketch
Another artist taking to recording under a new name, Rasul Gafarov was the man behind the delightful Your Sketch tape as Nenado. Written over a period of years, it reflects its title in its scattered approach, adopting a breadth of modes while retaining a single vision. The opening track sets out this vision, with looped piano chords anchoring clicks and whirs that sit aside crunchy field recordings and deeply uttered vocal tics. There’s a moment towards the end of “Like Attracts Like” where the protagonist, recording or sitting, steps outside the moment and lights up a cigarette, a single percussive line maintained before dropping out all together. The beat kicks in again and then the track is over. While this moment is an isolated flash of distanciation, it is emblematic of Nenado’s tongue-in-cheek method of production. “We Turn Into Planets” sees a twisted reversed guitar line mourn over ominous clicks and Boards of Canada-esque childish moans, while similarly infantile groans are found on “Hari Hari”. This comparison is fleeting, however. The major reference point in recent years for this work would be Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise, with similarly guttural vocals and openly expansive soundscapes. That’s not to say that Your Sketch is in any way derivative – the sounds Nenado crafts here fit perfectly within their own dusky milieu, a space at once welcoming and disturbing.
3. Lord Skywave – Cardamon Copy
You might know him as the who sang with Fake Blood in the Black Ghosts, you might know him from his collaborations with Nautiluss. For better or worse, you most definitely know him as the voice behind “We Are Your Friends”. Utilised as they are, Lord Skywave’s vocals are just one of many elements at play on Cardamon Copy, released this week. Like Alis, Simon Lord was dabbling around with machinery, in this case an old Tascam four-track recorder. Tapes are in vogue, and Ast:Dyn is certainly at the heart of that, but the sound that this recorder gave his tracks were what pushed Lord in the direction of this release. “Eggshells”, the second track, is a study in quiet, a track so low in the mix that you’ve got to crank it up to take in what’s on display. Reminiscent of Noah Lennox’s work as Panda Bear, Lord’s aquatic, multi-channelled vocals sit beneath synth lines that simultaneously shake with apprehension and sear with intent. “Severndroog” sees similarly buried vocals float through a time-signature-free rhythm build around distorted blobs of synth and bass. Right in the middle of Cardamon Copy, it’s juddering and jerky, and delightfully affecting. “Newt” follows with a more straightforward rhythmic pattern and a defiantly cheery riff that’s almost anthemic in its joyousness. Trying to contain and condense the truly diverse sounds presented across this track’s nine releases would be as futile as trying to define the Astro:Dynamics sound. Familiar yet unsettling, morose yet filled with hope; it’s not a label, it’s a mantra.
Stream: Lord Skywave – Newt (Astro:Dynamics)
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 14 May 2014. Leave a comment
Our seventh Functions of the Now mix comes from Berlin’s M.E.S.H. – a thick and sludgy, irrepressibly restless collage of modern club sounds that beautifully represents Janus’ anarchic soundworld. Having released his first EP on Dyssembler, this month will see the release of “Scythians”, an incredibly diverse and lush sonic ecosystem released through Berlin staple PAN. A host of remixes can be found on his Soundcloud, and have fortunately satiated followers along the way. Together with Kablam and Lotic, M.E.S.H. holds a residency at Janus, a legendary party at Chester’s and radio show on Berlin Community Radio with a history of booking underground heroes like DJ Nigga Fox, Total Freedom, DJ Sliink and DJ HVAD.
Janus is a fractured and elusive environment for a fucked up world. Something that seems really important to the project is the tension between pleasure and discomfort, those involved aren’t afraid of torment, frenzy and noise. The sonic signifiers riddled throughout Janus’ world– screams, smashing glass, drawn swords – suggest battle and destruction, yet the infamous hedonism of their Berlin night life heritage is equally prominent. Lotic’s anarchic Damsel in Distress mixfile destroys traditional mix narrative, taking lengthy FX-ridden breaks and stop-starting unexpectedly. Janus’ aesthetic is similarly disjointed, mixing the sharp contours of graffiti, the surrealism of Bosch’s hell and the hyperrealism of anime into a broken collage encompassing past, present and future. F l y e r s for the party eschew comprehension in favour of pure aesthetics, they caustically regurgitate consumerist symbolism rather than offer information. What direct communication does seep through usually manifests itself in slogans – “Selbstmord statt selbst-parodie – Klar!” (Suicide over self-parody, duh!), “Hate-Hype-Copy” – which symbiotically suggest political discomfort and the language of advertising.
Stream: Black Cracker – Ash On The Ground (M.E.S.H. Remix)
M.E.S.H.’s tunes feel like they are being summoned out of raw electricity and thrust directly into hyperreality. It feels almost subliminal, sounds are more suggestions than anything concrete as origins are constantly deferred and obscured. “Imperial Sewers”, off the forthcoming EP, toys with hardstyle tropes but only obliquely – they are romanticised and rewired through a myriad of other influences. These exquisite corpses are littered throughout the mix, throughout the hell Janus have created.
Before we get into our interview with M.E.S.H. it’s time to recommend a few bits and pieces as is custom for our Functions of the Now posts; though every time this gets harder and harder for us to narrow down. Checking back in with some previous guests from the series, inaugural FOTN-er Strict Face has continued his rude form with an astounding release for Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Records. If you thought eski square waves were getting old we implore you to let the devastating Fountains wrench your heartstrings. Ever busy, Strict Face is also joined by Inkke on another fantastic free compilation, Frass FM. Meanwhile the label that gave us Gage have unleashed a devilish R’n’G Summer anthem courtesy of the increasingly untouchable Murlo: scope out the video here. Elsewhere we have two incredible bootlegs from promising newcomer Air Max ’97: first remixing FOTN-er Sudanim‘s Midrift, then even more excitingly doing real damage with Björk’s drexciyan classic Pluto. A stream of ‘Progress and Memory’ from his excellent EP on Liminal Sounds can be found here. Another new face we’re extremely excited about is SPF666, who’ll be releasing his ‘Scorpion Cache‘ EP on 15 May. It’s a pitch-perfect balance of grime and ballroom with a set of super heavy remixes from Neana, Mike G, Massacooramaan and Commune, all of them exceptional. We’re also really been feeling Plata‘s dark wobbles and Secundus‘ weirdness, whose sense of melody is reminiscent of Lil Jabba’s noodley adventurousness. And of course we couldn’t leave off this outrageously good remix package of Truants anthem “Yasss Bish”, courtesy of the irrepressible Qween Beat crew. Killer ballroom cuts from MikeQ, Divoli S’vere and JayR can be yours for the price of a single facebook like: don’t sleep!
TT: To start out can you give us some history of the Janus parties? M.E.S.H.: “It started around two years ago and it’s Dan DeNorch and Michael Ladner who are the two organisers, with Dan doing all the booking and Lotic and I, and now Kajsa [Kablam] being residents. We did the first one in an older techno club, we brought out DJ Sliink, Craxxxmurf was still alive at the time, Lotic and I played together. That was sort of the first big Janus party. But it only really started popping off when we moved to Chester’s, which has been our regular space for the last year.”
I read that they have some massive defunct sub in the middle of the floor there that will explode your brains or something. “The system in there is way bigger than we can touch. The technician, Andy, has been working there for years and years and he built it all himself. I’ve heard rumours that one of the booths with a stripper pole actually is built to resonate as a speaker in itself, but they don’t turn it on anymore, or something.”
So what’s the philosophy behind Janus? “Well, there are a lot of parties in Berlin that are very much “about the music,” and there are a lot of parties in Berlin that are scene parties, where the people there might not know or care about the music that is playing at all. So we walk this line where we don’t really want to be music nerds with a boring elitist party but at the same time we’re booking people that we really love but who don’t really get booked out here. Bringing out Jersey Club acts, influential underground DJs like Why Be, bringing out people who might not even have a booking agent.”
“Sometimes we’ll have a guest who might be far outside of an audience’s comfort zone if they’re used to only hearing certain genres in clubs. For us it’s about setting up our line-ups so that it kinda makes sense. Nigga Fox came on before Kode9 and it went off. It made sense. Jam City, Nadus and Venus X on the same bill feels right. The way Dan books DJs follows a particular logic, more to do with the overall experience of the night, and the residents try to create a context so it doesn’t feel like a random outsider thing that’s just stuck in the middle of a techno club.”
There seems to be a real communal and direct approach to DJing with the Janus crew and your extended fam like Why Be, TF etcetera. To me it feels really anarchic and, in a way aggressive? Is that considered or is it just whatever comes? “It’s more like whatever comes, but then that turns into its own thing. The way that we play is a little more start-stop, it’s a little more irritating. [laughs] Or even abrasive in a way? I think that has a lot to do with playing on CDJs. When you’re playing on CDJs, especially with the newer Pioneers, you’re working with the cue button, hot cues, loops, mixer FX. I just mix in a more disjointed way with that set up, although this mix is a bit smoother.”
I noticed you smothered it in heaps of effects and extra sounds. “Yeah, I did a bit of post-production on it. I wanted the mix to not be very dynamic, I wanted the waveform to be like a tube. I also wanted the tracks to have the same pressure even though they’re from really different sources.”
“I think it’s too easy to just be eclectic and play whatever pops up in your feed or whatever. Since I tend to follow a few different strains of club music at once, I’m always trying to bring things together in a way that makes sense to me. Like chucking that Marcel Fengler track into the mix after a grime track, to me that makes sense.”
That really reminded me of Ben UFO saying in an interview somewhere: “grime is techno and techno is grime.” That blend was just like, bang, there it is. “[Laughs] I had to torture you for four minutes with that DJ Darka track, but I love that track so much.”
Yeah, it’s deep. So how does that mixing style come affect your production? “Just Janus starting totally changed the way I produce. Firstly having a spot to try things out but also the pressures of the dancefloor have had a big effect. I can make sounds that are really upfront and work the whole system but they’re not proper tools. They’re produced like a club track but they could also trainwreck your set or just make people really unhappy.”
So you are still essentially making tracks with the club in mind? I guess PAN has always ridden that middle ground. “I mean, I wish that I only made straight up club tracks. I usually start out trying to make a club track and then follow a different thread or get too interested in one sound. I would love the discipline to crank out bangers, or whatever, but I leave that to others.”
How do the aesthetics and sonics come together with Janus? It seems very collagist to me, same with the mixing style; bits and pieces forming a whole. “Most of the artwork is done by Dan, although I did the cover art for the mixtape series we’re starting. Dan’s goal with the flyers I think is to be a bit illegible… not falling into this promo language, maybe not even making the names readable. With Lotic’s mixtape art we are definitely commenting on the cycle of hype and appropriation that is rampant when music is fed into the Internet. Everyone in Janus is a bit neurotic and, like, touchy, we’re always arguing amongst ourselves so I think that all comes out in the artwork and the music as well.”
On “Scythians” off the new EP, that MIDI vocal really reminded me of “R Plus Seven” from last year. OPN was talking a lot about the interzone between the digital and the real and I think that features in a lot of your music and aesthetic as well. “Yeah, it’s weird for me because I’ve always been in the box with production so I take a lot of those ideas for granted. I started out as a teenager with Fruity Loops and that kind of stuff. I grew up on software instruments and VSTs, so I’m drawn to these sounds. I never went through an analogue phase, so my cornball tolerance is different because I just had these VSTs with like a thousand presets – that was a universe in itself. I was never trying to emulate a certain synth or create a patina to apply to everything, for me the struggle was more about creating context around arbitrary noises. And I really like clean digital spaces, reverbs that have space to reverberate.”
Stream: M.E.S.H. – Scythians (forthcoming Pan)
Let’s talk about your relationship with grime. “I’m definitely an outsider, especially coming from the West Coast of the United States. Honestly most of what I know about grime comes from a good friend of mine who runs the silverdrizzle YouTube channel. With the newer stuff that’s coming out, I feel like right now anything at 140 bpm that’s produced in a kind of angular way is called grime. Which I think is fine because it groups things together in a way that is… semi-meaningful.”
That’s something that I’ve been struggling with a lot and kind of trying to avoid providing answers for. I think that semi-meaningfulness is why we’ve been approaching people like JGB, the Her crew and yourself, who aren’t really hard out grime producers. But then again, neither are the Boxed community when you think about it. I guess that’s what makes it so exciting. “There’s so much stuff coming out that’s really good, but it doesn’t have the typical way of grouping it together, whether it’s through bpm, or cities or whatever. It’s hard to answer when people ask what I play and what I produce, but at the same time my preferences are really, really particular.”
I’d also like to talk a bit about the influence of hardstyle and trance, in “Imperial Sewers” there’s a really beautiful synth line that’s totally hardstyle but also kinda not. “I’m really influenced by a strain of super melodic hardstyle, the gigantic melancholic synth lines and pitched kick drums and all that. I used the structure of the triplet-heavy kind of hardstyle tune so it has that shuffle even though the drums are more static.”
It’s interesting because these kinds of genres – trance, hardstyle, brostep now – are all really repressed in the ‘proper’ dance music world, they kind of exist in its collective subconscious. “Right, they’re not in big magazines but they’re at festivals with, like, half a million people.”
Exactly, actually I just read a listicle on Fact that started out ‘trance isn’t cool, has never been cool and will never be cool’ and I find that kind of odd. It’s just nice to hear someone working with it rather than looking down on it or whatever. “To me it’s like folk music, just having these tunes and this total social experience, lyrics that are really banal but set over this grandiose, full spectrum dominance sound. Lush, high budget visuals. I don’t know, there’s something that resonates with me.”
Tell us about the new one on PAN. “I’m really excited to get it out. I recorded it mostly in LA and finished it up in Berlin. Even though it’s short, it’s the result of so many iterations. I’m just really slow with production, getting bogged down in the details, so having it wrapped up is really nice for me. Like, someone will ask me to do a remix and it’ll take me 9 months, and I’ll do six or seven versions. The way I work is so neurotic and inefficient, it’s actually amazing that I finished a record.”
Thanks for all the beautiful work you’ve done, thanks for all the happiness you brought into our lives, and thanks for being an inspiration to so many of us. You may be gone but you’ll never be forgotten; you made the world a better place and you changed the course of music forever. Rest in peace DJ Rashad, for always in our hearts. We’ll be taking a break from publishing new content on this website out of respect for the kind and talented soul that deeply touched so many of us at Truants. Our love goes out to Rashad’s family and friends, Teklife and Hyperdub.
Stream: DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn – Welcome to Amsterdam
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 27 April 2014. 1 comment