Celebrating its seventh birthday this December, Huntleys + Palmers is a record label and club series that never strays far from the Truants radar. Moving between Glasgow and London, and headed up by Andrew Thomson, it has slowly become a cult institution, bringing the most interesting strains of electronic music to the fore. Their afro-futurist Highlife parties, set-up with regular H&P affiliate Auntie Flo, have been described by Auntie Flo himself as a challenge to ‘the Western-centric perspective on electronic music’. Huntleys + Palmers excel in the changing the focus across their main club series as well with a booking policy that’s both refreshingly challenging and diverse, whether they’re hosting Thursday-night proceedings at Shoreditch’s Plastic People or venturing further afield to other venues and cities. The fact that they discovered SOPHIE (whether you’re a fan or not) speaks to how daring Huntleys + Palmers are, never afraid to put their money where the emerging talent is. This strong sense of identity has earned them the respect of other labels and some of the most widely respected selectors: Kompakt cite how essential Huntleys + Palmers is for such a young label, Jackmaster claimed that they’re his current favourite, and both Jackmaster and Joy O featured forthcoming H+P material in their recent Beats In Space mixes. The label also recently announced a new monthly show on Rinse. With all that said, we’re delighted that label head Andrew Thomson has provided the 106th Truancy Volume. Listen to the mix while you check out our quick interview with him below, and if you’re lucky enough to be either London or Glasgow based, head out to help them blow out the candles…
Hey Andrew, thanks for sending through this mix – it’s lovely to be helping you celebrate your seventh birthday. What’s been the most exciting moment for the Huntleys + Palmers, in the journey so far? “Thanks! I don’t think there’s any specific moment which is exciting as all of it is really – meeting inspiring individuals, travelling and most of all, sharing musical discoveries. I’ve always been sharing music, from way back in school, recording tracks off the radio and playing them to classmates, to making minidiscs and mix CDs for friends. I see everything I’m doing now as just a extension of that same desire to share music with others and with more encounters, there’s more music to discover.”
As a platform for club events as well as recorded music, you’ve championed some diverse acts, and have a keen ear for emerging artists. Can you tell us a bit more about recent signee Wrong Steps? How did you find him? “I met the guy behind the Wrong Steps through Brian (Auntie Flo) as they both played a festival in Portugal (under another project name). A squad of us ended up going to Berlin for Brian’s Panorama Bar debut and we hung out with him and struck up a friendship then. He sent the Wrong Steps demos at a point when I already had a backlog of releases to get out, so I shamefully never checked them at the time. A few months later, he asked for feedback, which was a bit embarrassing. I went home and checked them out and signed a few right away. There’s now a bunch of material we’ll release throughout next year too.”
Are you getting inundated with demos yet, or still digging for gold? “There hasn’t been a sharp rise in demos, but I would say that the quality has increased now. There’s a bunch of stuff I get sent on a weekly basis which clearly would not work on the label and I don’t think the artist themselves even know much about the label’s output. They’re just shopping around their tracks to any email address they can get a hold of, so I typically don’t bother checking them out unless someone has went to the effort of mentioning why they think the music would fit on the label. From these artists, there are more and more tracks which are well produced, but just not really interesting enough.”
“The release schedule is pretty full for next year on both H+P and Highlife anyway, so I’m not really looking for anything new. I’d like to develop most of the artists who released this year and build on their promising debuts, so that takes up space in the schedule and is more interesting to me than just signing the latest banger from an online random.”
You discovered SOPHIE, and I can’t resist asking: what’s your take on the polarised response to the sound SOPHIE and his cohorts produce, both in music journalism and on the dancefloor? “I love it! In part because it’s exhilarating to watch his monumental rise in popularity, with that will also provoke negative criticism. All that suggests he’s doing something right, which is also exciting. Ever since I discovered him, he had very strong ideas of what he wants to achieve and whilst I never had doubt, it’s impressive to watch his career heading in the direction that he set out to accomplish. He’s got an exciting future ahead for sure.”
As a Swiss-born Turk based in Berlin whose music reflects that globetrotting identity, Mehmet Aslan’s Mechanical Turk release seemed like a great fit for H+P’s international approach. The two of you recently played in Istanbul together, right? How was your experience of the music scene out there? “Istanbul was an immense experience, I wasn’t prepared for how big it is. With a population of 16m (nearly double the size of London), it was impossible to see enough of the city in a short weekend. I wouldn’t be qualified to speak about its music scene, short of the amazing Baris K. The party itself was pretty perfect though with an open and responsive audience, who probably found it a bit strange having a pasty Glaswegian playing some Middle Eastern and Turkish stuff. It was interesting to see how Mehmet would be received, but they seemed to be lapping it up and there was a bunch of folk down the front waiting for him to play his Mechanical Turk rework, which got a great reaction.”
Staying with your own international experience, you’ve now moved back to Glasgow from Berlin and will be taking over as the programmer of Nice N Sleazy. As someone so heavily invested in different aspects the contemporary music scene, did you have any criticisms of Berlin’s current musical landscape? “It’s hard to be negative about Berlin as it’s just so different. There’s nowhere else like it, so I’m not really sure there’s any point in outsiders trying to project their own expectations on to how the city should be. There are criticisms about the music not being varied enough, too 4/4, but that’s functional and keeps people going in clubs until the next afternoon! I did find that there’s a smaller, maybe more music-led scene, revolving around the Berlin Community Radio and its affiliated artists and shows, so it’s not all house and techno.”
I expect that your work with the night and label might feed into the new Nice N Sleazy vibe somewhat? “Yeah, that’s the plan. The Sleazy’s job has fallen into place at the right time. I’d only moved back to Glasgow a few weeks before it came up and had been having discussions about starting a regular party there prior to hearing about the job so I’m very pleased about how things have turned out to say the least. I also start just as the weekly Thursdays at Plastic People parties I’ve been curating draws to a close at the end of the year, so I expect to pick things up from where that curation left off really.”
Releasing a fairly diverse range of sounds, how hard (or easy) has it been to establish yourselves within the current musical landscape, amongst an ever-increasing amount of small young labels? “It’s difficult to compare to others. I guess in certain respects there was a fairly solid foundation to build on after doing parties for so long – which helped with all the required contacts and it was maybe easier to get records to the right DJs, etc. I haven’t paid much heed to ‘the competition’ though, similarly to promoting, there will always be people doing good and interesting things and people going down maybe more of an obvious route. With the increased output on the label this year, I think more people are starting to get a sense of what H+P represents musically and hopefully this increased interest will continue.”
Of 2014’s music releases, which do you wish you’d nabbed for Huntleys + Palmers? “Good question! It’s probably an easier one to answer than which is my favourite H+P release, so I’m glad I don’t have to attempt that. I would probably say Caribou‘s ‘Mars‘ or ‘Wu Du Wu’ by Monetzumas Rache.
Finally, please tell us a little bit about the mix, and perhaps you could give us a sneak preview of what you guys have in store for us in 2015 – the second edition of your Chapter compilation series, and what else? “The mix is on the accessible end of the weird spectrum. It features a bunch of things I’ve been playing in warm-up sets over the past year; with a few label exclusives, some favourite tracks from the past year, alongside a couple of H+P classics. Around the first few parties back in 2007, I put together some compilation CDs which I wrapped up in coloured newspaper and secreted around Glasgow. Every so often folk still mention how they found one of them again recently and had it on. I’ve always wanted to do another one since, but never really had the time, so this is probably what I’d feature if I made one this week. Which is quite appropriate as the seventh birthday party is fast approaching.
“There’s plenty happening next year, mainly building on this years focus on the label and developing the artists who’ve contributed before now, with follow up releases from the likes of DrumTalk, Carisma, Wrong Steps, etc. We’ll also release a Highlife compilation in May which will see all the previous releases in a digital format for the first time and then there’s the Auntie Flo album, which is definitely something to get excited about.”
Words by Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura, 04 December 2014. Leave a comment
With all three of the label’s co-founders having hectic touring schedules to fulfill, it’s certainly understandable why releases on Hessle Audio have become slightly more irregular than they once were. It’s something Ben UFO has even commented on himself, when comparing the frequency of his label’s output to that of PAN and The Trilogy Tapes in an interview with Rinse last year. Step into the fold Bruce, the man tasked with delivering Hessle’s first release of 2014. Details about Bruce remain sketchy but on first look he seems like a natural fit for label. Not only does he appear to have taken naming pointers from label-mate Joe, but his sound positions itself at that middle ground between being experimental and being functional – a middle ground that Hessle have always been ardent proponents of.
Opener “Not Stochastic” featured in our 100th Truancy Volume and sounds as good now as it did then. Twitching synths have a noticeably trippy feel to them and are met with an undercurrent of buried kicks. As the track progresses the synths become ever more agitated, an effect only furthered by sudden drops and surges in volume. On the flip “Trip” is remarkably sparse – a prime example that less can definitely mean more. At times it seems as if the tribal-tinged drums are going to lose the energy to keep moving but reverberating bleeps do just enough to bring the sluggish rhythms back to life. “My Legs Wouldn’t Go Quick Enough” is the star turn here however. It’s the most direct and floor-focused of the three cuts; percussion clicks away irritably while piercing drones swirl and screech over the faint murmur of a weighty low end. When considered alongside his equally impressive Just Getting Started release on Dnuos Ytivil last month, it’s fair to say that Bruce has hit the production game ground running. “Not Stochastic” is an example of an artist fully justifying the hype and a reminder that although the pace at which Hessle Audio records are released may have changed slightly, the quality attached to them remains the same.
Bruce’s “Not Stochastic” is out now on Hessle Audio.
Words by Matt Gibney, 03 December 2014. Leave a comment
Now is the time to reset any expectations one could possibly form around a release on recent Truancy Volume contributor Slugabed’s label; there’s been a new signing to his London-based, perpetually left-of-center Activia Benz gang. The Good Of The Night comes from young newcomer Toby Gale, also out of London. His public curriculum vita is brief enough: a short freshman effort on Tape Club Records, Starfruit, and a remix contributed to Kero Kero Bonito’s remix mixtape released in September, aside from a couple Soundcloud offerings that popped up two years ago. Anyone will know there’s been countless instances of strong round two’s, and this EP seems like another coming out party.
With the preceding material Slugabed has curated for his label in mind—vivid, up-tempo EP’s from Lockah & Taste Tester, 813, and ELOQ along with others —The Good Of The Night arrives as a lovely sore thumb. The most striking features within Gale’s latest is his sense of composition and pace. Moreover, there are forces at play that act in stark contrast to either the driving, crunk trap histrionics rampant in 2012 (but nevertheless the source material for a fledgling Activia Benz catalogue) or Lockah’s neon envisions. Gale’s palette tends to be colorful, sure, but track forms, elusive as they may be, usually lean towards jazz and are less taken up with a pluralist, hodgepodge sonic ethic like other Activia Benz releases. As such, these songs play like narcotics taken before bedtime—the soundtrack to nostalgic dreams. The Good Of The Night is spellbinding from the start, with the kaleidoscopic twinkles of “Floodlite” affording a proper introduction. Next comes “3 Up”, a track outstanding in it’s ability to affect emotionally, trotting along with lithe chords, also barely-there piano timbres and R&B extractions. Tempo is altered slightly on “From Now On In”, a track that evokes days of Zelda and Nintendo, as steady kicks bear the ingredients of a more anxious vibe. A description of the EP from the label boss is included in the press releases: “It’s a bit like when you ride the horse around at night time on Ocarina of Time and there’s no one around and you feel very blissful.” Only Gale knows the degree of intent towards these sounds and vibes, but a chunk of the EP (including “Air Bones” and “World 8”) does seem to elude to that very game—The Good Of The Night is better for this, no doubt.
The Good Of The Night was released November 10 on Activia Benz.
Words by Michael Scala, 01 December 2014. Leave a comment
Since we spoke to Local Action‘s main man Tom Lea back in March, the label has put out albums from its lynch-pins Slackk and DJ Q, dropped debut singles from Shriekin’ and Finn and stepped into the realm of full-on, legit house parties. As they approach year’s end, they’ve upped the ante once more with a truly superb cassette from another newcomer, Yamaneko. The London-based producer first came to our attention with a mix for Subcity Radio in early March. Just a few weeks later Tom Lea opened his Truancy Volume with “Seabrooke Rise”, a track from the album Pixel Wave Embrace. In the intervening months, Mumdance has weaved a few of Yamaneko’s tracks into his never less than excellent Rinse FM show, whetting appetites and building (in this case, deserved) hype around the producer. It was appropriate, then, that Mumdance should play host to the “Pixel Healing Spa”, a 30-minute journey through the type of new-age bliss that inspired Pixel Wave Embrace. (Even more fitting was that the show was broadcast from RBMA Tokyo, in a country whose culture has had a palpable influence on Yamaneko’s ideas.)
What of the album, then? It’s a thing of beauty. It opens with the unguent flow of “Fragrance Transmission”, the thick, globular tones of which feel like bubbles drifting upward from the ocean floor. Delicate notes float around these structured patterns, offsetting their regimented indolence and sinister melody. Opening the album this way it’s clear that it will be as unsettling as it is welcoming. Yamaneko plays with convention, defying the ordinary and opting for the unexpected. The tropes of instrumental grime loom heavy over the release, yet it’s far from formulaic. Gunshots abound, as on the aquatic “Greeen Hillz” and the cacophonous “Slew Wave”, which is perforated by the sound of human breath as much as automatic fire. “Yonkoma” and “Accela Rush” bypass grime completely, moving instead towards uptempo techno beats, albeit on quite a granular level. The former shuffles along with a glint in its eye, while the latter opens with dancing aquatic bells before jumping into a zone of distorted acid. You find yourself immersed in its darkness before you quite realise what’s going on. “Is this on shuffle?” you might wonder. “Have we switched on something else?” The album drifts so effortlessly into this entirely new sphere that you wonder where it might go next.
Standout “Primrose Island”, which premiered on Juno Plus, returns to the album’s sonic trope, adding in subtle laser drops and grime synth modes to the track’s hauntingly lovely melody. The aforementioned “Seabrooke Rise” is the only track that raises cause for complaint. Assured and accomplished as it is, it outstays its welcome and suffers from a lack of development. The repetition of its two main phrases could be contracted somewhat, or indeed developed outward. That said, Pixel Wave Embrace barely lasts 40 minutes, so this is little more than a petty grievance. While “Calotype Process” is the most straightforward ‘grime’ track here, the album’s final passage sees it enter full-on healing spa mode. “~” does away with rigid bar lines in favour of weighted pauses, while “Noises In The Wave Wires Like The Kissing Of The Sea”, which features Rimplton, seems to lament frantic late nights on the dance floor, opting for the lethargic freedom of the night bus. The album comes to a close with “Adrift”, a thoroughly blissful conflation of grime hiss and gentle electronica. Flip the tape over, set these rolling bells against the taut flex of the opening transmission and there’s a sense of a coiled spring devolving to a straight wire before dissolving into thin air. Mumdance coined the term weightless for that sweet spot between energetic beats and ambient wash, and it seems that, even at 130bpm, “Adrift” is utterly weightless. If you do flip the tape over as we’ve suggested, you’ll find it hard to press stop. This album is one that bears repeating, with all its mischief, melancholy and heart coming together to form one of the essential releases of the year.
Yamaneko – Pixel Wave Embrace is out now on Local Action Records.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 28 November 2014. Leave a comment
Following Sharp Veins’ spectacular ambient instalment, we’re excited to bring you the latest edition of Functions Of The Now from an artist we’ve had in our sights for a mix since before the series even began. Hot on the heels of his Hydraulics EP – perhaps his most well realised release to date – Bloom has provided us with a companion piece that contextualises his future-facing, mechanical take on grime. The mix is comprised of almost industrial re-imaginings of classic grime tropes and barely offers a moment’s respite as it barrels through FOTN alumni Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf, Miss Modular, Sharp Veins and Gage – in particular watch out for the latter’s highly sought-out dubplate with Kevin Jz Prodigy – as well as rising stars like Janus’ club agitator Lotic and recent Truancy Volume mixers Victoria Kim. Needless to say, it’s one of our favourites in the series to date and we’re sure you’ll see why.
Bloom’s story began back in 2012, a time at which the now-established scene that has risen up around present-day mainstays like Boxed and Local Action was in its nascent stages. Figures like Butterz had heroically re-established grime as club music and it was only going to take a couple of well placed charges for the dam to burst and the breadth of classic grime experimentation to flood on to dancefloors again. One such charge came in the form of Logos‘ Kowloon EP, a spacious meditation on Wiley’s infamous devil mixes, but the other was much more explosive: Bloom’s Quartz EP for Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Records.
The key ingredients are undoubtedly familiar to anybody with their ear to the ground in 2014 – slinky square waves, grime pulses, smashing glass, negative space – but even surrounded by today’s competitors (and in some cases imitators) “Quartz” still stands out for its pitch-perfect precision. Between then and Hydraulics Bloom resurfaced only twice, first fine-tuning the aesthetic of his debut for Visionist’s always excellent Lost Codes label and then once again on his new-found home Crazylegs, where he reconfigured the shuffling UK house of Toyc’s “Keyframe” into an utterly deadly, doom-laden grime banger. A lot has changed in those two years, with eski tropes so ubiquitous it’s hard to move for square waves: ever canny though, Bloom appears to have used his year-long absence to move light years ahead of the pack again.
Peel back Hydraulics and you’ll find something resembling the skeleton of grime: agitated, asymmetric rhythms; pregnant pauses; hefty, gabber-esque kicks. It’s what augments these elements that is so radically different though. Pulling out the loping, almost mechanical aspects of conventional instrumentals, Bloom constructs something more akin to the sonics of some infernal, futuristic machine. It’s no coincidence that the excellent video for “Dark Light” finds its closest cousin in Conrad Shawcross’ recent exhibition The ADA Project, in which artists including Beatrice Dillon and Holly Herndon composed music to match the choreography of a mechanical arm. That’s not to say Hydraulics is not club ready, however. The real beauty of the EP is the tightrope it successfully walks between disorienting sound design on one hand and soundsystem heft on the other.
Since our last instalment there’s been an avalanche of solid releases, and it’s to our shame that we can’t include them all here. Some highlights though: first up the essential debut mixtape from West London MC K9, Mad In The Cut. Worth grabbing for his amazing vocal of classic Youngstar beat “The Shotta Riddim” alone, the tape also features production from FOTN favourites Dark0, Visionist and Mssingno, all of which K9 rides in his inimitable, gnarled style. If you’re quick you might still be able to grab copies of two essential experimental transmissions. The first comes courtesy of Mumdance and Logos, the inaugural release on their new Different Circles label: you can read our review here. The second only tangentially touches on the aesthetic we’ve been tracing in this series, but is one of our favourites of the year nonetheless: Yamaneko’s Pixel Wave Embrace tape, an album that takes grime’s melodic sensibilities and masterfully weaves Hiroshi Yoshimura-style 80s ambient out of them. We’ll have extended thoughts on that on Truants tomorrow. Next up Rabit preps for his Tri Angle Records debut with the extremely potent Sun Dragon EP on Parris’ Soundman Chronicles label. The club-ready tracks are powerful but we’re particularly enamoured with the ethereal interlude “Send“. Elsewhere the dazzling debut from Leif producer Taskforce is well worth investigating – you can hear Nguzunguzu’s remix of “Domain System Awareness” opening Bloom’s mix, a quasi-industrial take on DJ Mondie’s classic “Pull Up Dat” riddim. Finally, newcomer DJ New Jersey Drone does the business for one of our favourite crews Track Meet on his Energy EP, splicing grime DNA with hi-NRG, hi-bpm clattering drum traxx complete with Rabit and Murlo remixes.
We caught up with Bloom over email for a quick chat about the route to Hydraulics and his plans for the future.
TT: Hey Bloom, how’re things? “Yeah, good thanks.”
Although you’ve been around for a few years now, information about you is a bit thin on the ground. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for the initiated? “Well I’m from Belfast and still live here. Been making music for a few years now.”
Coming from a place so far removed from the OG scenes that influenced this new sound, what was your route into grime? “It’s hard to say, the early influence would have come from being introduced to Rinse a few years back i think. If it wasn’t for the Internet I wouldn’t be making this music – I liked what I heard on Rinse, it was a welcome change from mainly listening to house and techno here in Belfast. Me and a few friends began running a night which did pretty well – we had people like Terror Danjah, Brackles, Gemmy etc. over.”
Now that this kind of music is coming to the fore slightly more is there more representation in Ireland? I know there’s Shriekin’ and Glacial Sound over there, have you managed to get together any kind of scene on the ground there? “There isn’t much more to be honest, there’s Major Grave from Dublin who should be mentioned more. We just started a new night recently in Belfast to support this stuff and we did a couple of Crazylegs parties last month in Belfast and Dublin. I’d be up for making more things happen in the future and building on something.”
Hydraulics is probably your most out there release yet, what was the thought process behind it? In many ways it eschews a lot of the grime tropes that defined your first releases, was this a conscious decision? Andy Crazylegs described it to me as “pure sound design”, would you consider what you’re doing now “grime” or has it transformed into something else entirely? “I’d still call it grime – I get what you’re saying though, it’s a bit weirder and less accessible than my older tracks. It may not sound the same as older grime but to me it’s definitely built on that foundation – I just didn’t want to regurgitate older sounds and samples. I set out to create a mechanical coldness throughout the EP and I think that does transform it into something different. That just happens when you try to put your own twist on something.”
It’s funny because even in the two years since “Quartz” the landscape has changed so considerably: back then weird grime instrumentals were a total oddity while today they seem to be the defining feature of underground UK dance music. Is there ever the urge to throw yourself more completely into the scene that’s grown or are you more comfortable checking in once a year with another curveball? “I don’t feel the need to release more, its just a natural thing really. I’m always working away, trying new things out – when it feels right I’ll put out more.”
How did hooking up with Crazylegs come about? They’ve been on fire this year, I think in many ways Gage’s “Telo” was a “Quartz” for 2014. “Yeah the last few releases have been big – the next few are mad too. Just wait and see. I did a remix for Andy last year, we’d been chatting since I first came over to play one of the parties and it led naturally from there really. I see what you mean about Telo – it has that immediate shock value. I love that.”
Similarly to Telo you’ve had some strong reactions – most notably Alex Macpherson’s “I never want to hear this undanceable bollocks in a club”. Do you relish this divisiveness? “Haha yeah that was funny – it’s his own opinion, he’s allowed it. Not everyone is gonna like my music. I don’t particularly relish it when it creates that reaction, I just make what I enjoy making. I have no control over anything else.”
What can you tell us about the mix you put together for us? “The mix is a selection of dubs and releases from some of my favourite producers – a couple of tracks off the new EP also. I just wanted to represent what I’m playing in the club at the moment. No frills.”
Going forward, what can we expect from you? Will we have to wait until 2015 for the next Bloom drop? “I’m not sure, we’ll see how things pan out. I’m not in a rush to put out anything else just yet. I’m looking forward to making more stuff, maybe get into some collabs and remixes.”
Before we leave things, any shout outs you’d like to make? “Yeah big shout out to Andy for putting the record out, alot of effort and attention to detail was put in. Also a massive shout to Hayden Martin for the Dark Light video – it’s pretty special.”
Taskforce – Domain System Awareness (Nguzunguzu remix)
Dreams – Deadzone
Logos – Glass (test tone mix)
Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf – Public Love
Gang Fatale x Charly Black – Parched (MM rmx)
Victoria Kim – Apgu Freeway
Bloom – The Menagerie
Gage & Kevin Jz Prodigy – Bad Bitch
Dreams – Skanner
Loom – Grade
_______V – MilaJ edit
Sharp Veins – Bald Eagle Swimming
Gage – Shoot Em Up
Lotic – Trade
Too Much v3
Bloom – Cold Grip
Celestial Trax x Chemist – Shallow
Celestial Trax – Illuminate
K9 – Krudstar
Artwork: Joe Jackson