Hotline Recordings, a label set on maintaining the mystique of tracking down music by making a mobile number its source of contact, accommodates Hodge warmly. He presents the label’s fifth release, following Kahn and Neek, Lurka, Rachael and DJ Sotofett, and Commodo. When we contacted the label at the start of the year, anonymous fingertips text us back coolly, days later, boasting a no-nonsense approach to releasing music. “If the trax sound hard on a system and get waists moving, we sign it. If it don’t, we send it back,” they said. In light of this, Hodge’s A-side, “Mind Games”, progresses, barefaced, from the pleasing foundation of UK funky’s tribal swagger. Layering up, we’re treated with a low, suction-type snarl that snaps you back to the first bar throughout. Hodge then chucks a grimy steel drum melody on top – urgent, wants to run away fast – and it is this play, between holding back and pouncing forward, that keeps the track centralised, firmly rooted and powerful. Turn it, however, and the approach is different. “Flashback” is introverted and even deeper underground. While the beat is a painful propulsion, the track is more spacious, synths all longing, slipping into the past and, in this way, it is in keeping with Hotline’s ethos: to challenge the dancefloor. Integrity, diversity and quality, tied together with a clear aesthetic and goal, underlines Hotline’s output. And it’s clear they’ve found the right guy in Hodge.
Beneath has been a firm Truants favourite for a while now. His unnerving blend of dubstep, funky and grime has taken him to labels as varied as Keysound and PAN while his skills as a selector are perfectly distilled in his contribution to our own Truancy Volume series. Having used his No Symbols label to house his own productions, Beneath has recently started the Mistry label as an outlet for other producers tracks. Webstarr – a young producer from Hull – contributes the label’s second release, his style certainly sharing some similarities with Beneath. “Aegrus” boasts a ragged, deconstructed rhythmic structure and is a brooding affair dominated by ominously swirling drones and a weighty low end. Chevel’s remix of the title track feels sparser; with the Italian producer opting to strip away much of the percussion which characterised the original mix. Webstarr returns to production duties on the final track. Keeping things dark on “Clocked”, he references the tribal rhythms of UK funky but reconstitutes them in a techno sonic palette. It rounds up a very strong debut release and one which suggests that Mistry and Webstarr both share a bright future.
DJ Sotofett’s WANIA label is pretty special. Their weird and at times beautiful takes on techno and house have been consistently impressive over the last few years and this split release between SVN and AU, both featuring spoken word from Paleo, keeps up the tradition. The A-Side, SVN’s On Tempo, is a twisted peak time club jam which showcases WANIA’s more rugged techno face. However, AU’s track on the flip, It Takes Time, is what really stands out. It’s delightfully chilled out, the chord stabs are relaxed and subtle, creating a mildly uplifting and laidback atmosphere. Paleo’s unassuming voice suits the nature of the track perfectly, bearing similarities to Madteo on previous WANIA release There’s Gotta Be A Way. It’s the first thing either AU or Paleo have released since 2012 but it has been well worth the wait. The release is a testament to WANIA’s versatility and we’re certainly eagerly awaiting their next release, whenever that may be.
At this point, no one needs to be told to listen to Tinashe’s first full-length album Aquarius anymore. It’s rightfully been on everyone’s radar and appreciated as one of the most wholesome and fulfilling records that’s hit shelves this year, which is a hard expectation to meet when the hype surrounding a debut has been as gradual and diverse as Tinashe’s. Aquarius has been a solid year-and-a-half in the making with over 150 tracks recorded, and while it’s doubtful we’ll even hear a quarter of those, one bonus track that’s surfaced is “Little Things”. It’s a fun and dancefloor friendly track that might not have sat right amidst the cohesion of the album, but it most definitely warrants some plays nevertheless.
Words by: Erin Mathias, Matt Gibney, Antoin Lindsay & Sindhuja Shyam.
Previous editions of Sunday’s Best here.
After a long hiatus Functions Of The Now returns with someone who has been bubbling up with some of the most idiosyncratic soundcloud transmissions to come from the nebulous grime-ish scene we’ve been covering. Described by Mixmag’s Seb Wheeler as “Hieroglyphic Being mak[ing] grime”, Sharp Veins (formerly known as William Skeng) has hit a purple patch since his name change, augmenting asymmetric grime beats with fragmented sampling trickery that utilises sound sources as diverse as Grouper and JRPG soundtracks to raw material. Choosing to forego the tropes that have come to dominate modern grime, Sharp Veins instead taps into the sonic novelty of the ’02-’05 era to draw surprising connections between Bow E3 and purely textural noise & drone excursions. Similar territory has been traversed by the likes of Logos and most recently Moleskin on his Satis House EP but in this case the direction of travel is reversed: where those producers stretched out the sound palette of grime into Oneohtrix-esque ambience, Sharp Veins instead carves strangely organic grime instrumentals out of variety of unusual sources.
Suitably, Sharp Veins’ addition to the mix series is utterly unlike any other we’ve had to date, eschewing the dance floor entirely for a 45 minute introspective journey down the rabbit hole of his non-grime influences. Taking in classic ambient in the form of Gas, key influence William Basinski and some of his own noisier productions, Sharp Veins gives a hint at the building blocks involved in the construction of his unique instrumentals.
It’s been a while since we last spoke so there is, suitably, a lot of ground to cover in our recommendations. Over the period there have been some big steps towards the Now as the entropic forces of online culture take a hold on grime, dissipating its already flexible boundaries. The crystalline digital space and unhinged structure of OPN and M.E.S.H. filter back through the Soundcloud-industrial complex, the results evident in this edition of FOTN as well as Sentinel and Al Tariq’s destructive ‘Nothjng js at Rest’, which sonically tracks the atrophying desire for acceleration built into our network and narrative. Pedal to the metal :) To this end, Amnesia Scanner’s AS Live, Faithful and _______V can also be seen tearing at the walls. Elsewhere, in more strictly grimey territory, we’ve been feeling Alex Compton’s reinvigorated, devastating square waves, Ursula’s lush collages and, of course, Weightless Vol. 1, which develops a devilish floatation tank in which the second wave might exist. Oh, and definitely don’t sleep on previous contributor Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf’s free collection, a truly amazing Body of work.
Taking advantage of our mutual relocation to London we met up with Sharp Veins in the back of a Dalston bar to discuss joining the dots between noise and grime, learning to let go of square waves and the move from a New York suburb to the birthplace of grime.
Hey Sharp Veins! How’re you finding London? “I’ve been here for about 3 or 4 weeks, I’ve lost track of time since I arrived.. Just about a month. I love it here so much, it’s such an awesome city.”
Have you managed to link up with any of the grime guys over here yet? “I went to NTS the other day and met Tom Lea from Local Action and Finn briefly: they’re super nice dudes. But I haven’t met too many other guys, it’s mainly still email correspondence. I’m kinda awkward with the whole talking online and meeting up in real life, I find it difficult to do. Once you just discern you’re both into a couple of the same things you can at least enthusiastically talk about those few things though.”
How were things back in America, was there much of a scene for this kind of thing? “I think grime is getting increased exposure. A lot of my friends are into it, and it’s easy to imagine this scene getting transported there slowly but surely, but in general I don’t think people quite get it. A lot of Americans – myself included – thought they got it but it seems like an intrinsically British thing for sure.” What’s been interesting in doing this series has been people from outside the UK who really nail it though. Strict Face for example, he did the first edition and he sounds so authentic. “Yeah, and he has his own set of influences that have taken things in a different direction.” It’s almost like he’s taken the idea of the devil mix and combined it with Japanese ambient. It’s similar in a way to what you’re doing taking samples from noise/drone: even though sonically you wouldn’t necessarily put them together, grime does have abstract qualities akin to both. “Definitely. Like the entire ethos behind the devil mixes, I find that very inspiring as well. It’s possibly another cliche and something that other Americans would say listening to the Keysound track and hearing Logos and thinking ‘I’m gonna make something that floats like that’. But y’know, trying to do it in a different way I suppose – to put the idea in a new light. Like my track Abalone Barrels for example. When I was making that I was thinking of it in a strange way as a weird devil mix 8 bar tune – it didn’t sound like that when it came out of the other end but like that’s how I was imagining it at the time. I think a lot of people have been trying to use grime principles in a strange way.”
Perhaps that’s the the best way forward for people who haven’t been embedded in it – geographically or whatever – for years and years, to just run with one strange element of it. One thing that came to mind from your mix was the this underlying thread of sonic experimentation, and that’s quite an interesting thing from grime that not a lot of people are picking up on right now. A lot of the interesting guys from back in the day, like Hindzy D or the Black Ops crew, they used all these really weird fucked up sounds that are all distorted in bizarre ways – they’re exremely unusual sonically and that makes them interesting – you have no idea where they possibly got the sounds from. Does this kind of thing feed into your music? “Recently I’ve actually been listening to too much drone stuff and in a way it’s like- I’ve got stuck. So I’ve been trying to listen to older grime sets because even if I don’t make stuff that’s directly grime anymore or trying to be grime, I still very much consider it to be an inspirational genre. There’s so much to take from it: the sounds, the way the rhythms attack you and stuff like that. What you said about the strange sound effects and atonal elements, yeah I love that. I’ve been listening to Logan Sama’s last Rinse FM set on repeat for the past week or so and there are so many fucked tunes on there that are also sat next to the better mixed down Terror Danjah type tracks, it’s a weird little intersection. You listen to his tracks on old radio rips back then and when it comes in it’s like someone changes the actual bitrate. All of that stuff though, when you listen to it now it still sounds great: it’s really impressive to have music that has a quality that lasts this long. Just I suppose in a time when things change so quickly.”
A lot of the old grime stuff – to me it’s the best music of all time, hence the series – but so much of it rode on character more than anything. There’s some tunes that sort of sound atrocious in one sense but in every other sense it’s the most amazing music of all time. “That’s absolutely half the appeal. Even if it’s just a really gaudy melody, something that’s really garish sounding that should never work. Or only rhythmic elements that are just disgusting, just really ugly sounding hits. There’s so many aspects that might be considered “bad taste” in other genres but in grime it works perfectly. Until you sit down and try and replicate that and make something of your own you have no idea how taut those productions were. It’s just immediate, it’s so simple, but you also can’t sit down with the programs people are using now try and do something like that and have it sound as good as it did back then.”
A lot of the beauty of those tracks come from the software they were using back then. When you try and throw all that into the latest version of Ableton it all sounds a bit…clean. “Way too clean. I love Ableton but I almost wish I’d started with a program that was more limiting. Especially when you’re first starting out it’s imposing how many options there are and then once you get a basic understanding you feel like you’re not using it correctly because there’s so much to exploit. It’s nice to be able to turn off all the other functions sometimes and just go with just a very clean basic set up. It’s been said a million times but if you start out with some basic limitations about what you can do or are allowed to do, it’s often a serious boon to your creativity.”
Living in the US, what was your route into grime? “Dizzee was my first real introduction to grime, I remember my Mom got me this book of 1000 albums to listen to before you die and “Boy In Da Corner” was one of them. It didn’t describe it very well- I don’t think they even called it grime – but because they couldn’t articulate what it sounded like I was interested. I read more on it and when I listened to the album imagining this young kid making those beats after school or something it’s so inspiring.” And all the instrumentals he was making before the album were so great. One aspect of that time I’d love to come back a bit is these whole lineages of tunes created from the same samples. Yeah I was listening to this old set of Danny Weed B2B Jammer and the amount of times different versions of “Hoe” got played I was like: are you kidding me, I had no idea there were that many floating about. And god knows how many are lost now. It’s such a romantic idea in a strange way, a hard drive dying and you lose some of the best tunes that you forgot you made. There’s something strangely nice about that idea. And what a strange time to be listening to music it must’ve been, spending 30 minutes to download one guy’s 128kbps rip of some producer’s track.
It’s what I think’s interesting about the music you make, since you use a lot of this lo-fidelity sampling. With a lot of that grime stuff the only way you can hear it is as these continuously re-encoded rips that you pick up in some “500 grime instrumentals” pack and they’re only 96kbps. I think that’s a nice, non-obvious connection between the old grime stuff and what you’re doing now. “That’s probably coming from the fact that at the same time I was listening to Dizzee and Wiley I was also picking up on stuff like Stars Of The Lid and William Basinski. And Tim Hecker for that matter. There was a time in my life I listened to nothing but that and a ton of post rock and post metal. I think, especially with William Basinski, a piece of music being defined by the degradation process – I really love that idea. You can find it to a smaller degree in old grime rips and old Memphis hip hop tape rips. A lot of those, they sound like absolute shit but it lends them the mystical quality. Perhaps when the person bought the tape and they were listening to it in their car it sounded alright but now that we have it it’s been passed down through hands for a long time it just sounds like it was recorded in a dingy basement somewhere. I’m quite into that, I really like that idea and that’s something that I wanted to put into my music because I’m not very good at making things sound really clean. So I decided to go in the opposite direction.
On that note there’s some other interesting things with your tracks, particularly “Did U Think”. I love the intro where you make it sound like the track’s buffering, was it intentional? “To be honest, it sounds a lot like that and a lot of people have mentioned it but, to me, that was like a strange rhythmic thing that, when I removed the drums, it sounded arhythmic but I had a balanced version in my head of what it was supposed to sound like. I think perhaps as a consequence of spending too much time on the internet it did invade a little bit. But that was not intentional. I thought about the idea of corrupting mp3s but haven’t got round to it yet, at the moment it’s just making things sound like they’re stuttering or glitched up. I like stuff that sounds that sounds like heavily programmed glitches, the clicks individually set on the screen, but I like it more when it sounds coiled up, like it’s bouncing around in a can- at least that’s how I visualise it a lot of the time.”
Have you managed to bring much gear over? Or are you all in the box anyway? “The one thing I have outside is this really shitty tape recorder made for dictation. It records things faithfully but distorts the hell out of it, so I use that with field recordings on tracks sometimes. That’s about it though, nothing else at all. I tried using stuff outside my computer but it feels strangely unnatural.” It’s funny because there’s something I’ve noticed about your tracks: they’ve got a very organic feel to them. It doesn’t at all sound like a guy with the plugsounds samples and Ableton square waves. “That’s what’s really allowed me to advance in the past year, because before I was really trying to make what was – at least in my own mind – pretty derivative square wave bass grime. Some of it’s OK but there are guys who are doing that perfectly well already and I had this whole other set of influences that I hadn’t yet exploited. So I decided to go all out with the naturalistic, weird sounding stuff. Textural – I’ve been all about the texture this last summer. I went off on this tangent where I’ve been making things that are really really noisy and I’m not even sure if I really like it. But that’s kinda where I’ve been going recently, something I’m trying to explore. I don’t really have a heritage in noise music or anything like that – actually none to speak of whatsoever. It’s just that with the samples I’ve been using when I try to manipulate them that’s what has been coming out. I’m just kinda letting it see where it leads me. Still, I really appreciate the support of the people in the grime scene. When I began to make these things that were kinda shifting away for the most part I thought surely I’d lose their support and they’d think “this guy was a scene hopper or bandwagon jumper”. It’s been amazing the reaction I’ve gotten making stuff I actually want to make and accurately reflects what I’ve been listening to.
Besides the artists featured in your mix, what are the key influences behind what you’re doing at the moment? “The guy that I think is head and shoulders above anybody else in terms of influencing me is probably Tim Hecker. The amount I’ve listened to Harmony In Ultraviolet is kind of obscene. It’s a constant of sorts. I have so much respect for his stuff. The way there’s so much texture that it’s almost rhythmic but you can’t quite discern a beat in it, I love that. With a lot of my stuff I try to emulate him, but I’m not working in a mad scientist lab like him so I can’t quite do it. I’ve heard him talk about “emotional ambiguity” in his music: you feel something from it but you’re not quite sure what it is that it’s telling you to feel. I can’t quite do that – I usually go for quite sad sounding stuff, I’m a sucker for that, I can’t help it.
Now that you’re here, what do you have lined up? “I’ve had a few people hit me up and try and collaborate and I need to at some point. I’ve got something in the works with Kakarot that we need to finish up. Tarquin, he wants to do something, that would sound so fucked up whatever we managed to do. I need to get out to some people’s studios because all I’ve got are headphones and it’s a pretty difficult job to produce just like that. I’ve had a couple of labels express an interest in my tracks and I have something in the works for Glacial Sound- all unheard, new stuff. We’re just about finished and hopefully it should be out by the end of the year. I’m excited as hell about that. At the very beginning of the summer I sent Paul some of my stuff and that was the first tracks that were moving away from the sound I’d be mining at the beginning of the year and I was like “he’s not gonna fuck with any of this” and he hit me up pretty soon after saying that they were great, and that gave me the confidence to start making some really weird shit. The pedigree of that label is amazing with Rabit’s work, their white labels and now the Riko Dan vocal.
I might have some stuff in the works with Boody, the guy who produced for Leif. He hit me up the other day and I sent him over some stems. Looking forward to that. But primarily it’s the Glacial Sound stuff; I’m trying to work on something that could end up as a vocal track for them. I’ve been having the hardest time putting together songs in that medium though, all I’ve been able to put together is pretty abrasive noisy stuff that doesn’t really have a discernible beat. So I’ve got to get back to a point where I can actually have some regular drums on there.” Well back in the day that worked pretty well sometimes too. “I’ve been trying when I open a project to make something in that vein, but when it comes to the drums I either can’t do it or it just gets really crazy really fast.” You could always just go the devil mix route. “Haha that’s what I’ve been thinking: just get a single melody, a bass and a single vocal sample and some delay and just say fuck it, somebody complete it for me with their own voice.”
With grime clubbing in rude health in London for the first time in a while, do you think you’ll start to play out here at all? “I got some CDJs and a mixer for real cheap in the US but I haven’t managed to bring them across here. I like DJing but I don’t particularly want to spend a lot of time learning it and I don’t think that if I was in a club I would actually put on that interesting of a set. It would be great every now and then to go out and do it but I lack the ability and I recently I don’t want to play tracks in a club that much. I enjoy going personally, but just occasionally to get out, that kind of impulse. I enjoy using Ableton to make sets and things like that but it’s taken a backseat to just making music. DJing is something on the side that I might eventually get to. I actually much prefer putting together beatless things like in this mix and my Liminal Sounds mix. Doing that with club tracks on Ableton feels too much like you’re trying to emulate CDJs and you lose the energy. Throwing tempo out of the window and smashing things together is a lot more intuitive and you get a lot more interesting effects out of it – weird phasing melodies and things like that. But yeah, people have been asking about it: Tom from Local Action has been in touch and Paul from Glacial Sound wants to do something with Shriekin at some point. It would be sick but I don’t even have my gear here and I’m also intimidated by the club. In front of people I don’t know very well, even a small crowd, it gets very imposing and intimidating to me very quickly so there’s also that. It would be good experience, I hope at some point I just bite the bullet and do it. This would probably be the best place to do it. At home I’m about 4hrs from NYC and even there they’re not really into anything I’d like to do.”
Given that you’ve been christened the Hieroglyphic Being of grime you could always just do what he does and dip in and out of conventional dance music while playing all this great drone stuff. “I do think it’s really cool where somebody goes from ambient things to something made for the club then back out again, it makes things really tense and strange. It’s not always the most danceable thing at all, but fuck that to be honest.”
Artwork: Joe Jackson
Of the many acolytes known of Obey City’s increasingly seminal and always delivering Astro Nautico imprint, Photay is perhaps the least known or busy. If you let fairly modest online following statistics smother the nascency of his producer status, you’ll let what is one of the most original bodies of work this listener has come across this year drift right past you (though these some 30 minutes don’t exactly play short). Culling a multitude of influences, including a study stint in Africa for music, the 22 year-old Evan Shornstein’s music is emotive, fruitfully experimental, genuinely original and fits well within a mold cast by the host Brooklyn label. Even as a relative newcomer and with a less than definable discography, Photay is effectively one of the sharper needles in a pile of needles, so to speak.
Stream: Photay – Communication (Astro Nautico)
It’s a good possibility that those not among his kinship at SUNY Purchase who knew of Shornstein prior to last month’s debut took cognizance of him after they heard his contribution to Atlantics Vol. 3, last spring’s (and still the latest) brimming Astro Nautico compilation. Also self-titled, but self-released (seemingly to mild fanfare on the Bandcamp medium) in 2012 came a composite of works which marked the unveiling of Photay’s foray into electronic music. But it was that Atlantics tune “Communication”—at times good-vibed with jubilant melodies and juke-ish rhythms and at others melancholic, if not deflating, with decrement chords and a bluesy “I love you” sample—that may have been the impetus to the organization of his proper debut on Astro Nautico. There are only a couple instances on Photay where he sounds at all similar to “Communication” per se, negating the prospect of an unwavering, “found sound,” but an aspect of Photay that can be traced back from as early as the aforementioned composite album is outstanding musicality. Shornstein, the apparently once Aphex Twin-listening fifth grader, has a way with integrating harmony, layering, sampling texture, and incomprehensibly crafting polyrhythms.
Stream: Photay – Reconstruct (feat. Seafloor) (Astro Nautico)
Album opener “Detox” does just as it’s titled: it cleanses the palette altogether, priming your mind for invigoration and an ultimate trek through the mind of Photay at the time of writing. Its revolving melody, transitioning from one timbre to another at one point, and brassy backdrop gently sedates, but there’s an air of curiosity here too. Just as one will find Photay in its entirety, the intro sounds unpredictable, ready to turn one corner or the next yet orchestrated. Rather than a synthetic emulation, there is actually trumpet play on the ensuing “Reconstruct,” the proper first single lifted from the project a few months before the release and which features the vocal of Brooklyn artist Seafloor, another AN producer. A biting synth riff misleads early on, but soon breaks out to become a minor role in the mix. Seafloor is clearly the focal point here: the trumpet responds to his breathy, lithe vocal in an interaction which—instead of polyrythms—is the first fleshed-out influence of Shornstein’s time spent in Guinea, West Africa heard on the record.
The second single we heard from the album might be the best. Originality and inventiveness underline “No Sass.” In a way similar to the preceding track, it seems like Shornstein attempts to misguide here again, initially setting for a dark vibe implementing beedy, rainy textures and tribal drums evocative of some type of sullen ritual. What eventually reign superior in truth though, are climbing, reedy riffs and vibraphone strokes and inarticulate vocal harmony (the source of which is not disclosed in the credits) . One of the more captivating moments on the album happens midway through this track when a lead line appears, cleared through the dazzling fray of instruments, bending in intensification then stopping, presenting a very obvious situation wherein the track has to decide on a path. “Static At The Summit” is less full of surprises than it is focused and rounded. It’s colorful with melody, like a lot of what bears the Astro Nautico label, but not in a lurid way; it’s one of the more beat-centric tracks on the record, and the tight-handed snares and hats (or the sound Shornstein captures to mimick them) are still subtle. Photay is a balancing act (accurately says the press release), of synthetic and natural, but also of genre, so it’s only right that “These Fruits, These Vegetables” chugs along with nearly chillwave-ish (e.g. Bibio) funk. If the idea remains to be unclear, this kid is shifty, elusive, and his work is full of spontaneous movement. That said, the closing “Illusion of Seclusion” seeks not to knock you back into your seat with too many unpredicted thrills, but imparts a sort of retrospective feeling that bookends the record’s eased introduction. The last quarter of the song flaunts a final spurt of unfettered virtuosity that potentially foreshadows a prolific, busy future Photay—and I hope that’s the case.
Stream: Photay – No Sass (Astro Nautico)
The 12″ version of the album is currently sold out, but the digital version comes packaged with three bonus tracks, “Dusk”, “Chrome”, and “Astral Projection”. Photay was released on September 9 on Astro Nautico.
Words by Michael Scala, 09 October 2014. Leave a comment
In 2010, we saw the release of tracks that are now considered classics such as Wut, Work Them, CMYK, Maze and of course a little edit of Drake’s Fireworks by a South London producer named Deadboy. At the time, it was a remix that gained a lot of attention and, more close to home, it became an all-time favourite for us here at Truants. A lot has changed since then, but Deadboy’s outlook has firmly always been to make all types of music with no limitations on genre – an outlook which has since seen him gain a sizeable following, be it through his numerous releases on labels such as Numbers or his varied DJ sets. We had the pleasure of catching him play at Bussey Building in London near the beginning of the year and seeing him comfortably work his way through dancehall, grime, garage, house and bassline remixes of Kate Bush to a packed out dance floor was incredible and refreshing to say the least.
With exclusive tracks from a forthcoming release on Local Action alongside cuts in collaboration with Murlo and Gongon, our 102nd Truancy Volume sees Deadboy guide us through a host of freshly produced productions as well as music from similar contemporary peers. Clocking in at an hour in length, Truants favourites Moleskin, Sudanim, Throwing Shade, M.E.S.H and Mssingno all feature as well as tracks from Young Thug and Chief Keef keeping everyone on their toes.
Hey man, hope you’re good. From the tracklist you sent over we all got a bit excited over the news of a Deadboy release on Local Action. Having solely released on Numbers since 2011, how did this come about and was the EP planned with a particular style in mind? “It came about just through chatting to Tom from Local Action and sending him some stuff. We seem to be into a lot of the same stuff at the moment, so it just kind of made sense to do it. Plus I’ve been into the recent Inkke, Slackk and Shriekin stuff on Local Action a lot. He was up for this collaboration soon so we just thought, why not?”
Is a possible Deadboy album still in the works? I know you’re constantly scraping them, but I read you were working on one around May with a ‘mixtape’ theme to it. “No, it’s still not happening. I don’t think I’ll ever do an album as Deadboy, to be honest. There have been times where I’ve felt like I was forging towards one but then thought no, this is too forced. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen naturally.”
You’ve very comfortably dotted in and out of different genres over the years with your productions whilst still retaining a familiar Deadboy sound. What do you think has contributed to this? “To be honest, I just love music, all music. I could never be happy saying that I just make house music or grime. I think you’re limiting yourself massively to do that. Music is art. Even dance music, which is pretty functional. I would never want to limit myself to one medium. You’ve got to follow whatever intrinsic force it is that drives you to create wherever it goes and not think in terms of genre or who its going to be aimed at or whatever. I just make whatever it is I want to hear that day without any forethought.”
Are there any of your peers that keep you hungry and on your toes production wise? “A few people. I think Dean Blunt is one of the best artists of our generation and Murlo is so creative melodically. Dark0 seems to be channeling Vangelis or something on some of his more beautiful numbers. Lots of people I’m into at the moment. It’s a really good time for UK music again right now after what has been a bit of a malaise for a couple of years.”
What were the influences with “Return”? Was the track based around a particular mood you were in? “At the time, I was listening to a lot of 70s cosmic disco, new age music and reading a lot of 70s science fiction. I was really into the idea of the 70s vision of the future being utopian as opposed to the dystopian future that pretty much takes over in futurism from the 80s onwards. Nowadays anything science fiction is always a dystopian future, there is no sense of wonder and possibility, it’s all fear and we are heading towards a nightmarish future. I made a few tracks around this idea at the time and Return was one of them. It’s kind of supposed to be the return of some character from a space voyage or something, which is why I was so happy with the video Thomas Traum made, it was perfect for the theme of the song.”
What has changed your perspective of DJing the most since releasing your debut record? “For me personally a lot has changed. To be honest, for the last couple of years I have been floundering a bit and struggling to find new music I really cared about. A DJ is only as good as the music he plays and I felt I couldn’t rely on all this old stuff, and was not really deeply excited by any new music for a while. A sort of house and techno malaise fell over everything. I was looking for music all the time but not finding anything new I could really connect with. I would go to clubs and be unconvinced that everyone was actually really really enjoying themselves. I decided to ignore the zeitgeist, pretty much ditched any house music from my sets apart from the odd bit that would work and play whatever else I wanted, which at the moment is dancehall, bits of RnB and hip hop, grime, bassline, some funky bits, much more of a return to the sort of thing I started out playing. Luckily there has been a massive resurgence in great 140bpm ish grime influenced music that is genuinely experimental and avant garde while at the same time goes totally off on the dance floor. These days I am spoilt for choice for new music to play. And we are slowly seeing a return to gunfingers and rewinds as opposed to long blends and trance like repetition. I am really really enjoying DJing again which is great.”
Where and how was this mix recorded? Was there anything in particular you were trying to convey with this mix? “At home with Serato & Technics 1210s. I wanted sum up the stuff I’m feeling right now and the sort of thing I’m playing out. Usually if I’m doing a longer set I’ll start out at a slower BPM and play a bunch of dancehall and RnB and stuff but I decided I’d go straight in at 130ish. Obviously I had the home listener in mind a bit more than I would in the club so some stuff such as the Yung 4eva track got in there.”
What else can we expect from you in the near future? “This record on Local Action and a collaborative record on Total Fantasy by me and Gongon under the name Pyramid Scheme. Me and Murlo have a few tracks we’ve done together which we will look to release as well. Total Fantasy is going to pick up again this year. We have some great music lined up and are working with some great artists for sleeve art and videos.”
Would you rather have to do a deep house remix of Sam Smith or have to visit the Saatchi gallery every day for two hours for a year? “I would do the deep house remix of Sam Smith. Luckily this could be done without the use of ears and very quickly. I would then take all that money from the posh music mafia PR war machine and spend it on destroying the art industry. Too many people are content to be told what is good. This is why the Saatchi gallery is full of fucking terrible “art”. These people have bought their fame, or earned it through connections. This is why nobody can relate to art. Art that we are exposed to is produced by a very narrow band of society, people who have been bought an art education, then been bought or bought their fame through relentless PR. The same goes for most popular music. A very narrow band of already rich kids get bought their fame through endless expensive and usually underhand promotion. On the other hand I am lucky that the world I operate in is less affected by that. Obviously there are a lot of people who have had a lot of help to get there, been bought equipment or studios or promotion or whatever but I and most of the other people I know have done this solely through passion and while holding down shit jobs and saving to buy cheap equipment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being rich and an artist. Until recently all artists would have come from wealthy families, but there is a problem when all of culture is created and curated by one narrow band of society. Ultimately when there are a million guys and girls making beats every day, if you’re not good enough all the PR in the world won’t make your track go off. That is the great leveller. I am currently trying to write about the state of contemporary music, art and culture and how everything is shit. It should make for cheery reading if I ever finish it. But also things get better all the time. With the spread of information and the internet, the barriers to entry to art and the need to have industry and media curatorship is slowly disappearing. The art industry and the music industry will disappear and decentralize and everyone can go back to making beautiful things for its own sake rather than for a career or money. “The job of the artist is to save the soul of mankind. Anything less is a dithering while Rome burns” (Terrence Mckenna).
Rant over, Peace and Love, Deadboy.”
Words by Riccardo Villella, 07 October 2014. 4 comments
Anonymity is a funny game. For every shy, retiring bedroom producer who claims “it’s just about the music, man” there may well be a celebrated artist attempting to cash in on a hyped new style without the shackles of their reputation, or someone else equally well known hiding their own connections and position from plain sight. For whatever reason, nascent US cassette label /\\Aught , interested in “cassettes / data / ephemera” according to its Soundcloud page, has decided to forgo biography entirely with its artists. Thus far the label has quietly releasing fascinating tapes from Elizabethan Collar and Topdown Dialectic (who has previously released on Tailings and Further). Their latest tape comes from De Leon.
Juan Ponce de León was a Spanish conquistador who joined Christopher Columbus on his second expedition to the “new” world. After some unsavoury subjugation of indigenous peoples in what is now the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, he travelled to Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth. There is a town in Texas named after this man, and Google searches lead to a forthcoming Tequila of the same name. Whether any of this is tied to the artist in question is impossible to say, but such is the nature of anonymity that the reviewer or listener is free to indulge his or her own fantasies, applying an imagined history on to incorporeal sounds with no apparent origin. When pressed, the label’s spokesperson would say nothing more about the release than that “its source is a series of Gamelan compositions that were later electronically treated and mixed”. For the uninitiated, Gamelan is a style of Indonesian (predominantly Javanese and Balinese) music, largely based around a series of percussive instruments.
What we seem to have here are Gamelan rhythms chopped and looped to form a steady 4/4 electronic pulse. “01” (the tracks are untitled, of course) opens with a thrilling rattle of drums occasionally punctuated by upper-register hums and a wide, deep throb of bass. That rattle ebbs and flows until a point midway through when each element comes together in time and rhythm. Sporadic blasts of that bass take the listener away from the Gamelan context, a synthetic reminder of the artifice at the heart of this presentation. “02” builds upon seemingly “original” percussion around the mallet-laden harmonics of the recorded instruments. The blunt beauty at hand is delicately offset by the restless energy of the drums and the searing terror of a bassline seeped in dread. Bells clank and muffled groans appear throughout, adding an extra layer of bizarre disquiet. The brief judders of “03” feature Gamelan sounds stretched and layered, while a kind of harmonic percussion skiffle jerks forward in unending motion. Things get deep again with “04”, the nervous rattle of drums and sci-fi soundtrack bleeps surrounding a gentle thrum of gongs. The closing track, while just as mysterious as the rest, offers a glimpse of brightness, a hint of the rising sun after a dark night. Melodic bass and drawn-out samples meet brash strikes, repeated on beat for an effect both chilling and reassuring.
Recontextualising those foreign elements could be seen as a violent act – cultural appropriation by a western conquistador, just like this mysterious artist’s namesake. That said, there seems to be no fetishisation at work here, no parody of Indonesian dress, no lush forests depicted for the sake of portraying an “other” world. Just a blank cassette tape on which appear five pieces of intriguing experimental music that comes housed in a clear zip-lock bag.
De Leon – De Leon is out now
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 06 October 2014. Leave a comment