When we heard from the guys over at Donky Pitch that their boy The Range was releasing an album on the label a couple of months ago, we jumped at the opportunity to speak to him and were delighted at the chance to have him feature as our eighty-fourth Truancy Volume. James Hinton, the man behind The Range, has been causing quite a stir recently, especially with the much anticipated Nonfiction LP dropping in October. Albums like Nonfiction don’t come around very often; by which we mean, the ones that hit you in a way you never expected at 4pm on a grim afternoon in Yorkshire, or blindside you on the bus as the all too hurried world passes you by. Because that’s what James does, he stops time. Not in your conventional ‘Bernard’s Watch‘ kind of way, but in a way that makes you more aware of your surroundings, that makes you consider them in ways you might not have before. It’s so meticulous, so perfectly rendered that it’s obvious to even the most unattuned ear that this project is one to take notice of.
As you can imagine then, everyone at the Truants Mansion were pretty happy when the tracklist from The Range’s Truancy Volume hit their inboxes. We managed to catch up with him after his first UK/EU tour and the release of his beautiful second album ‘Nonfiction’, which meant we had an abundance of questions to throw his way. James waxes lyrical about the English accent, talks about the album format, and presents us with a mix that is both punchy and delicate; proving to us (like we ever needed proof) that he is one talented man.
Stream: The Range – Telescope (Donky Pitch)
Hey James, how are you? First off, for those who might not be so familiar, can you tell us a bit about yourself? “I’m good! I’m James Hinton, I currently live in the US in Providence, Rhode Island. I make kind of footworky breaky stuff and have just released my second album, Nonfiction on Donky Pitch.” I read that you’re actually a Physics and Economics specialist that graduated from Brown? If you weren’t making music what do you think you’d be doing? “Haha, it’s hard to imagine but probably working in a Physics lab! Hopefully with a supercomputer. Maybe “Titan“ if I was lucky.”
Tell us about the alias Stegosaurus; whilst at Brown you produced two albums under that moniker, ‘Quill’ and ‘Cower’, is that right? “Yes, I started Stegosaurus my sophomore year at school, so that would have been Fall of 2008. Quill was somewhat abstracted Baltimore Club, a lot of breaks and strings and horns. Cower was similar in its focus on harmony, but with a more two-step percussion feel.” The Range is an interesting name; it’s relatively un-Google friendly unlike a lot of bizarre stuff you see these days, what’s the story behind it? “It stems from my interest in math and distributions, range has always been an interesting quantity to me. In some situations you might use the range to describe a boundary condition, but in other cases it might be used to describe the full uncountable set of numbers in between those boundaries. I’ve always been interested in the subtle difference between those two views.”
Prior to the album, you’ve released two EP’s on Donky Pitch over the last 18 months; how did that relationship come about? It seems to be very well-fitting. “I was first in touch with Donky Pitch just after I released ‘The Big Dip’ on Astro Nautico in December 2011. They asked me to do a mix for their radio show and I put a lot of unreleased stuff on there that I think they were interested in possibly releasing and we took it from there. Its been amazing working with them, we are completely on the same page musically.”
Nonfiction is the second LP for you after The Big Dip on Astro Nautico, and the first for Donky Pitch, are you happy with how it’s been received so far? “The reception has been great, I’m so happy that it’s definitely being seen as an album and not just one single. My friends all seem to have a separate favourite which is always a good sign!” Tell us about the process, did it differ from that of The Big Dip? Did you produce the tracks with an LP in mind as the final outcome? “There are certainly similarities between the process for The Big Dip and for Nonfiction. I made a lot of the tracks knowing that I wanted to put out an LP each time and in both cases I went through a period where the puzzle pieces came together and I knew there was an album. On both albums I had tracks that had been started well earlier than others and I like the fact that they can all come together as one whole.”
You mentioned in an interview with The Line of Best Fit that EP’s can fall into a trap of simply becoming a collection of singles; is this why you side towards the album format? “I think they both serve a certain purpose – to me an EP is at its best when it focuses in on one or a few of the artist’s interests whereas the longer format can capture more recurrent themes. An album is able to show the connection between tracks made in proximity and allow for an evolution in style since it necessarily takes longer to make than the shorter release. So, I wouldn’t say I side towards either length of release, but I do think there is an exciting potential for an album to retain the traces of the progression of the musical process. An EP is more of a snapshot, potentially fresh and specific, but limited in scope.”
The first time I heard the album I was out on a marathon training run and it seemed perfect; firstly because of the tempo and secondly because running can be quite a solitary, introverted activity, and the album struck me as quite an emotive journey in itself. Was there an intended environment for the album and what would you like people to take from it? “The whole album is very personal. It’s always been important not to shy away from harmonic intervals even while maintaining some fragments of freneticism. I think if anything I’d like to have people feel that juxtaposition and internalise those two parts of my music as consistent when together even though they might be independently unstable. I feel that inherent instability when I’m making my music and I hope it comes across.”
I showed a colleague at work the album art and he said it reminded him of ‘Xavier: Renegade Angel’… “Ha, I forgot about this, the opening scene is definitely in the ballpark of what Ian was thinking for the album cover. I have to show this to him, I’m sure he’ll love it if he doesn’t already.”
There are a plethora of really great samples (as in everything you release); I was especially taken by “Jamie”, and obviously “Metal Swing”, have you a favourite and where do you grab inspiration for these from?“I think “Metal Swing” is definitely my favourite sample, I think it ties the whole track together and the song wouldn’t be the same without all of the qualities that the sample adds. I mostly get inspired from falling into Youtube holes for long stretches of time. Its really amazing how much is out there and how many gems are perpetually added to Youtube. I know it’s a cliche to say that but I’m still surprised every time.” My ability to judge accents might be totally off-base here but the ones that stand out to me seem to be mostly English accents… “I suppose that is empirically true, I think it’s a happy accident that I ended up with that coming through on the album but not a direct intention. I think there is certainly a bit of grittiness that exists in those samples but I don’t know how much I would attribute to them being English in syllable tempo.”
You’ve just finished your first UK/EU tour, congratulations, how did it go? I heard good things from the Tuff Wax crew! Where was your favourite place to play and what do you think of the UK music scene? “I’d have to say Aberdeen with the Tuff Wax guys was the most fun, we played in a packed cellar with a great energy. But really the whole trip was amazing to me, I was so excited to be over there. I got to see Berlin and London. Berlin clearly has something special going on over and above what has historically popped off, people are so excited about what’s going on in all of electronic music there which I wasn’t necessarily expecting.”
I know that tours can range between two extremes; the high of the night, and the boredom of travel and getting prepared. Ryan Hemsworth’s tour hotel series has been pretty jokes; what did you get up to in between shows? “Ha yeah, i’ts so funny! It was my first time hanging out with the Donky Pitch guys, that was so so fun. I hadn’t met them in person before that tour and Dave and Pete were great to travel with. I had my first Fish and Chips in Brighton and took in the full Donky Pitch history, and getting to meet a lot of online friends in person brought a lot of the last 2 years full circle.”
Speaking of Ryan, you played with him at a CMJ event on the 19th, along with some other great DJs. What else have you got planned now the tour is over? “I have a lot of shows coming up that will hopefully be announced soon! I’m working on more music for some releases for next year as well.” If you could play anywhere with anyone, where would it be and who would you bring along for the night? “I would have to say a Crown Heights house party with friends! Nothing beats that feeling for me.”
Can you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve recorded for us? “On this mix I tried to both frame my own music in a novel way and show a little of what I play when I am at a show. I tend to whip the tempo around a lot so even though one of the tracks was intended to be played at a particular tempo it may be completely shifted into a new space. But yeah, its all over the place, hopefully in a good way!” There is a massive variety of tracks in here; how do you approach a mix like this? “I would definitely play a lot of what’s on this mix out but some of the tracks really interest me in a headphone context as well, so I tried to make the mix operate on both levels. Sometimes I get stuck but for the most part I just build the mix as it goes and try to play something somewhat unexpected at each juncture.”
You can definitely see some Rap and R&B vibes creeping through, but also you’ve thrown in tracks like “Steal My Sunshine”, can you tell us a bit about your influences? There are must be some Grime ones judging by the vocals on the new album. “You’ve nailed it, I think those are all touchstones for where I see myself musically, I think footwork, rap and R&B share a lot of structure, albeit sometimes in non-obvious ways. For example, I absolutely view the ability for each of those frameworks to transition to and from half-time fluidly as a backbone for each and a means to connect songs in interesting ways.”
I was going to ask you a load of range-related ending questions but I think I’ll stick to the Truants faves; what is your drink of choice and when was the last time you danced? “Haha, yes the drink would statistically have to be Coffee and the last time I danced was maybe in my studio (a circle of monitors in the corner of my apartment) today to this.”
Words by Jess Melia, 13 November 2013. Leave a comment
You know a release has really resonated with you when it dominates your listening time disproportionately; receiving a battering on loop for days-on-end despite all the other music you should probably be discovering, writing about or whatever. You know its special when it garners a track ID request from your usually resolutely disinterested girlfriend for the first time in months, and its ability to incite emotional breakdowns is noted all over Twitter (a little tongue-in-cheek of course but you get the picture). MssingNo’s self-titled debut EP is one of those ones, an emotionally-charged rollercoaster of swooning highs and deep-rooted lows that tugs on the heart strings with reckless abandon, whilst retaining the edge, bite and rhythm to work within club sets. The beats themselves bang hard in places, but where these tracks really come through and hit the spot is with their disarming harmonies; synth-rich blankets of sound interwoven beautifully with sparkling cascades of icy melody, wandering vocal loops and swaying basslines assembled with near-classical music levels of composition. The ear and musical aptitude required to build melodies with such a powerful emotive effect is no doubt an innate talent, and one that he has in abundance. And whilst these skewed R&B-come-grime tracks aren’t anything particularly new or ground-breaking on paper, MssingNo quite simply does it better, smashing most other efforts out of the park and carving a sound as rare as the Pokemon glitch he is named after.
Stream: MssingNo – XE2 (Goon Club Allstars)
The Londoner first emerged on our radar when a few head-turning cuts dropped earlier this year, with his technicoloured, bass-driven anthem, “D&C“, a highlight from I Hate Fun’s free compilation and his refix of “Brandy – Right Here” getting hammered by everyone from Blackdown to Faze Miyake. He is by no means limited to these rapturously sensual beats however and can blacken the mood in an instant, as he did when he transformed The Verve’s “The Drugs Don’t Work” into a haunting, Requiem For A Dream-deep track with CAS. It’s in this mould that the EP’s darkest moment comes, with “124th” dominated by sinister undertones and dome-spinning paranoia, propelled by fractious grime drum patterns over unfettered sub-bass toughness.
Stream: MssingNo – 124th (Goon Club Allstars)
Goon Club Allstars’ first release featured a couple of Wiley refixes from Samename and Moleskin which was, in effect, a solid white label that helped mark them on the map. Signing MssingNo’s debut record though feels like a masterstroke and much more of a statement of creative direction moving forward. The EP’s heart-fluttering high point comes with “XE2“, and almost like the complete antithesis in mood to “124th”, it crams a pitched-up-beyond-recognition R.Kelly and swirls of absurdly lush sonics into 5:28 minutes of pure, unadulterated elation. The above rambles on about the vividness of MssingNo’s melodic constructions, and that is in full mesmeric effect on “XE2″; straight synthesised wizardry that utterly captivates well before the first hats and snares creep in at the halfway point. There’s no let-up either, imagine “XE3“‘s super-bright waves of neon on a massive rig flooding your eardrums, or “Skeezers’” swinging tropical lilt that is damn near impossible not to move to, accented by the most playful of Rihanna excerpts. If these are the levels he has set on his first full release then lord knows what is in store for us next. Judging by this EP, his recent production mix and collabs/ remixes with (another equally exciting producer) Plata; his future is looking bright.
The MssingNo EP will be available via Goon Club Allstars from Monday 18th of November.
Words by Oli Grant, 12 November 2013. Leave a comment
Substantive technical skill can often be the foundation of cinematic rapping, and on The Pimpire Strikes Back, Roc Marciano contends to be New York’s resident adept. If the Long Island MC’s first release on Man Bites Dog Records is any indication of his forthcoming album Marci Beaucoup, then we can likely expect it to be another spectacular exercise in gritty street narrative. Ever-imitating the late-’90s style preferred by aging genre purists, innumerable rappers have employed this stark (and now tedious) template for decades with diminishing returns. Despite the odds, however, Marciano has found a way to improve upon an exhausted formula. The results are impressive: with every mixtape, he becomes more proficient at grimly depicting vivid criminality in tight, neatly packed verses that won’t leave your memory easily.
Stream: Roc Marciano – Doesn’t Last
Marciano has always forged his best work alone—both Marcberg and Reloaded are almost entirely self-produced, with two guest features apiece or less. On The Pimpire Strikes Back he’s welcomed more assistance, although most of the strongest tracks are still his own productions. They’re mostly simple but effective soul and funk loops sifted through a layer of grainy vinyl filter, and Marciano sculpts these blocks into dynamic compositions. “I.D.K.” builds on a frantic back-and-forth juggle between vocal samples of a female chorus and a disembodied, eerie soul groan. “Doesn’t Last” relies on a pitched-up sample of Billy Preston’s “All Things Must Pass” (written by George Harrison), and doesn’t rely on bass at all—the only drum is a tinny snare to keep the tempo. It leaves plenty of breathing room so that you really get the full impact of bars like “smash ratchets/ ’till the shaft of my penis is flaccid” and “your mixtape’s done in poor taste/ I’m watching horses race.” This review could consist entirely of The Pimpire Strikes Back punchlines and it would still be difficult to distill the high quality of Marciano’s lyricism, but the truth is that he has a bountiful supply of effortless, illustrative couplets. The ephemeral, intense imagery of lines like “a higher plateau/ chateau/ the coke’s in the glass bowl/ lavender bathrobe” or “linen shirt, peach hardbottoms/ greek columns/ trees with koalas/ drinks with the olives/ sniff a lot of coke through a dollar” on “Higher Learning” provide a brief descriptive snapshot of life in the Pimpire.
Stream: Roc Marciano – Higher Learning
When Marciano does recruit assistance on The Pimpire Strikes Back it’s within narrow criteria: there’s an underlying expectation that everyone involved play according to his rules, and so you’ll never hear guests like Action Bronson, Meyhem Lauren, or Knowledge The Pirate steer away from condensed discussions of drugs, guns, women, or money (one of the few exceptions to this is Bronson’s eternal love of food, which guarantees that “a very subtle mild lemon sauce, Sicilian capers” doesn’t sound out of place on “Velvet Cape“). That’ll probably be the gripe of those criticizing The Pimpire Strikes Back—that the illustrations can never extend beyond a verse, let alone be conceptually consistent for the length of an entire song. But by now, that shouldn’t be expected of Marciano’s style, and as he says in the bridge of “Sincerely Antique“: “maybe y’all n*ggas already know…these are moments.”
Roc Marciano’s The Pimpire Strikes Back is out now. Download via Soundcloud.
It is almost an unworkable mission to write a befitting preamble to a conversation with Surgeon that encompasses everything the frontiersman of techno has done in his career. It is not because we do not want to write a circumstantial opening statement, but rather because there is an inordinate deal of to his back catalogue and musical passage we could rave on about for days. Starting out from his original home in Birmingham in the early nineties, Anthony Child has constantly kept himself in harness; a few projects being the releases of his six full-length outings and his collaborative work with Karl O’Connor as British Murder Boys, to the birth of Dynamic Tension Records and co-running the House Of God events for two decades. Child’s output has been as strong as ever: this year alone saw the reformation of the British Murder Boys for a one-off gig in Tokyo, the twenty year anniversary of the House Of God parties, the emergence of his alliance with Blawan under their Trade moniker, an album of mesmerising experimental ambient on NNA Tapes and a monthly show on the London radio station Rinse FM. We briefly caught up with Tony over e-mail to speak about his reunion with Regis at the start of the year and its location, why it is that Coil stands out to him and a handful of other topics.
Stream: British Murder Boys – Where Pail Limbs Lie (Liberation Technologies)
Hello Tony, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How have you been? “I am very well thank you. Recently I’ve been on islands in the south of Japan and playing gigs in Poland, Italy, France and Germany.”
British Murder Boys reformed in April for an one-off performance. Could you tell us a little bit about how it went? “Karl and I had the chance to do a very special performance in Tokyo. We have worked with that venue before, so we knew that every small detail would be perfect. It was an intensely ritualistic performance using sight, sound and smell which had a huge psychological impact on us and those who were witness to it.” Other than working together with Karl, you’ve banded together with a handful of people to make music. Do collaborations bring out something in you that you normally don’t engage with? “I’m very careful about who I work with, I have to have a good personal connection with them; it’s quite an intimate thing. I’d describe it more as a conversation, rather than compromise. Of course that produces different results than working alone.”
Other than picking Tokyo for the BMB performance, I noticed you’ve been visiting Japan quite a lot. Could you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with the country? “I have regularly visited Japan since 1996 and I am fascinated by so many aspects of the country and culture. Performing there is always amazing, there is so much love from the crowd there.” Has what you’ve found yourself listening to dramatically changed in connection with where you’re living or visiting? “Yes, I have been spending extended periods of time in Maui (Hawaiʻi, red.) and my state of mind is very different while I am there. It is really impossible to listen to techno there, even to preview promos I am sent. I cannot connect to techno at all while I am there. It is actually a good break from it and I have a feel a fresh connection to it when I return home.”
It is fairly difficult to escape structure in terms of electronic music. Where do you stand on the dichotomy between structure and content? Do you think that it needs to be collapsed or not? “Brion Gysin’s cut-up technique was one thing that really altered my universe when I discovered it at an early age: a giant shift in consciousness. I do not abandon structure, rather I enjoy stretching and bending it. With techno I see the structure as being the functional aspect, the propulsion system.” Following Gysin’s influence on your work, are there any other artistic forms that influenced the way you think about creativity? “I also enjoy Cindy Sherman’s photography, especially her ‘Untitled Film Stills’. It is the sense of the depth of story going on behind the still picture that attracts me to them.”
Stream: Surgeon – Muggerscum Out (Soma Quality Recordings)
You’ve said that people will always come back to techno, as heavy electronic music is incredibly effective. Does techno’s appeal come directly from concrete situations or is it something more universal? “I guess it all depends how you dress it up, what surface image you give it. For me it goes much deeper than any of that.” How would you pinpoint its effectiveness? “Techno is a very versatile form, it can be bent and stretched a great deal and still remain techno. It is very effective functional music that people connect with in the club environment in a very deep way. Something that goes much much deeper than any fashion or even language. I see this every weekend.”
How did your regular show on Rinse come about and have you done radio in the past? ”I have not done any radio in the past and was asked to do a one-off guest show for Rinse FM in April. That was a fun new experience; it just really came at the right time. That went well so after another guest show I was asked to make it a monthly show. It was something new for me, and going outside of my comfort zone.” One standout aspect of the shows is that you play a lot of new music, much of it yet to be released. Is this something that you do with radio and the platform that it provides for spreading new sounds, or is it more of an extension of your DJing in clubs? ”I play almost all new music on the show because I find so much that I really like at the moment. That is a fundamental part of DJing for me: discovering music, being excited about it and wanting to share that music with other people. Quite a lot of the music I play on the Rinse shows is also the new music I am playing in my DJ sets, but the musical scope of the radio shows is much wider. Also, I mix the tracks in a very straightforward end-to-end way on the radio show, no layering or extra percussion like in my club DJ sets. I am presenting the music, rather than moving a dance floor.”
Stream: Trade – SHEWORKS005 Preview (Works The Long Nights)
Speaking of DJing, you are renowned for your creative approach to digital DJing. How do you think that your habits developed and evolved through your career? “Technically, the way I DJ is really just a means to an end. I do not have a fetish about the tools I use to do that. It is the results I am interested in. Recently, I have become a lot more focused on the precise way that the music controls the energy in the room, bringing it up, down, making people wait. Tension, pause, frustration, release.”
Coil means a lot of different things to different people: you draw a lot of inspiration from them and I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your admiration for them? What do you make of Drew McDowall’s work with Tres Warren as Compound Eye? “In the mid 80′s I played some of my abstract tape music to Justin (who went on to run Cold Spring Records). He said, “It sounds like Coil” (who I had not heard) so I went out and bought their current LP at the time, Horse Rotorvator. I immediately connected with their music and followed them since then. For me, they have always projected something very deep and spiritual though their music. Thanks for mentioning Compound Eye, I had not heard of them and will check them out.”
And finally, when was the last time you danced? “I am dancing right now. Dancing and falling.”
Stream: Surgeon – Rinse FM Broadcast (9th October 2013)
On November 16th, The Hydra, Bugged Out & Bleed join forces to present a label showcase from Works The Long Nights with label founders Karenn (comprised of Blawan & Pariah) playing a scintillating live set as well as being joined by special guest Surgeon, the ever-prolific Midland and Sunil Sharpe. For more information on the event and information on how to get tickets, see here.
Photo by: Satoru Fueki.
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 08 November 2013. Leave a comment
We first covered Mr Beatnick upon the digital release of his Synthetes EP in the summer of 2011. A late pass, indeed, but we’ve been watching him and Don’t Be Afraid, the label he calls home, very closely ever since. He was even kind enough to give us our 42nd Truancy Volume. Over the past few years DBA has expanded from a label that just put out records by Semtek and Beatnick to being a multi-disciplinary force keen on blooding new artists and expanding repertoires, as well as putting out limited 10″s, 12″s, and now, in a bold move, its first CD. In a world where physical sales are too anomalous to call and vinyl and cassette are bread and limited butter*, DBA has opted to garner together the key points of The Synthetes Trilogy on compact disc. That’s DBA though – always taking the unexpected route.
Stream: Mr Beatnick – The Synthetes Trilogy – Bonus Beats (Don’t Be Afraid)
Rather than opting for a chronological approach, bar opening with the titular track, the CD groups tracks sonically, thematically. This approach highlights the subtle grooves and orchestral similarities between tracks, recorded as they were across a period of years. The jagged strings of ‘Synthetes’ give way to the sultry motions of ‘Symbiosis’, from this year’s Savannah EP. It’s not long before we’re introduced to ‘Waning Moon’, the first (and arguably the finest) of the new tracks. A slow-burning late-evening jam, all skittering percussion and bass-led joyousness, it’s a study in yearning, appropriate for cocktail parties and basement discos alike. It’s also been reworked by Opal Tapes affiliate and recent Truants interviewee Best Available Technology – a remix that flips the original’s melodiousness for a suitably gloomy affair. Listen over at Nutriot. The gorgeous dripping funk of ‘Casio Romance’ and the effortless groove of ‘Shifting Sands’ (featured in our Room Full of Truants) make way for ‘Yacht on The Nile’, which pits harsh, pulsing drums against a heartfelt whine and glistening bells. ‘Nuit Blanche’, meanwhile, is a hands-in-the-air jam with DjRUM-like flourishes, pizzicato pinches and a lead sample that lands just on the right side of cheesy, manipulated casually yet deliberately as it is. The pace kicks up with ‘Savannah’ and ‘Parallax Scroll’, Beatnick’s ode to rave, and then it comes to a close with ‘Never Dies’. What never dies? Hardcore. This one is a riot of 142bpm Think breaks and frantic organs, a surprising end in some ways. But Beatnick is a voracious listener, so we shouldn’t be surprised by his eclectic yet coherent output. If you’ve listened to the three releases as often as we have, it’s wonderful to hear them recontextualised like this, reordered and repackaged with a broader purpose in mind. Of course it would be remiss of us not to mention the exquisite artwork, lovingly designed by Emily Evans. What next for Mr Beatnick? An ambient, beatless work perhaps, if idle chat is to be believed. Whatever comes, we’ll be listening.
Mr Beatnick – The Synthetes Trilogy is out now on Don’t Be Afraid. Buy here.
*Since the time of writing, Don’t Be Afraid has announced the impending release of a limited cassette.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 04 November 2013. Leave a comment