Recommended: Koett – Lost Time

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Koett is a Russian producer from Krasnodar, a city that was originally named after Catherine the Great, and subsequently renamed after the October Revolution, its present title translating as Red Gift. Having released under a number of names between 2005 and 2012, he’s refocused his efforts and consolidated his talents under the Koett moniker. Following house and techno releases on FUSELab and Dabit Records, he’s gone down a different path for the “Lost Time” single on Atomnation. The breezy, sun-drenched affair precedes an album, Golden Peak, that’s coming in November. Building off a jazzy, shuffling template beloved of the likes of The Avalanches and Jens Lekman, “Lost Time” is swamped in the sound of 60s pop. Think jaunty guitars, full-blown emotional strings and a bouyant bassline that drives throughout the track. There’s a set of heartfelt minor piano arpeggios that underpin the bridge, before driving back into that sunny lead, in turn accentuated by a delightful dancing flute line. It’s over before you know it, and no doubt you’d be wearing out the rewind button if we were still in the cassette days. Well, they’re coming back, but you know what we mean.

The release is bolstered by two remixes, from fellow Russian Monokle and from Spanish producer Sau Poler. Monokle’s take isolates the darker piano elements and frames them against thrilling crash-cymbals for a throbbing house template. Muted vocals and a mournful mid-range riff keep things tense and emotive, while swirling upper synths add even more frantic energy. Sao Poler’s rework is more in keeping with the brightness of the original, though a snarling, spiky bassline and sharp chords keep it club ready. Rolling percussion stands with an ever-modulating riff, stolen from the OG track and twisted and moulded into something entirely new. While Koett’s effort is a sterling tease for the album that’s in store, the release itself shines a light on two remixers with a keen ear for isolating key elements and fashioning pieces entirely of their own making. A worthy release, then, which wins on many levels.

Stream: Koett – Lost Time (Atomnation)

Koett – Lost Time is out now on Atomnation. Buy here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 04 October 2013. Leave a comment

Interview: Solar Bears

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Earlier this year Dublin-based Solar Bears dropped their second album, Supermigration. The album, released on Planet Mu, drew together their love of electronica, film scores, dusty pianos and pristine 70s pop. Ahead of their intimate show with Sunken Foal in Dublin’s Whelan’s, we spoke to Solar Bear John Kowalski about moving from the bedroom to a “real” studio, what inspires him and why they don’t play too many shows.

Stream: Solar Bears – Supermigration (Planet Mu)

Hey John, how are you? “Very well thank you. Things are going good at the moment.”

What are you up to, apart from preparing for your show? “I do a lot of work behind the scenes which takes up a lot of time. Aside from that enjoying autumn and researching old film scores, as you might imagine. We set up a second studio on the quays in the city center recently so that has been a primary focus.”

This year you released your second album on Planet Mu, Supermigration. Have you been happy with how it’s been received? “Definitely, we both are. The guys at the label did a brilliant job, they all work extremely hard and always give us good advice. We’re very lucky to be working with them again. It was also amazing to join forces with Michael Robinson once more as his films became a crucial part of the experience for us.”

How did the collaborations with Keep Shelly In Athens and Beth Hirsch come about? “We had done a remix exchange with Keep Shelly in Athens and Sarah’s voice was a joy to work with so she was a natural choice, her vocals lended themselves fairly seamlessly to the finished track. Beth Hirsch is someone we earmarked quite early on too.”

There’s a sort of 70s/80s feel to parts of the album, I sense a 10CC and Cure influence at points, and horror/Italo vibes at others – are those decades important to you musically? “I think horror soundtracks were in the back of our minds for certain parts of the album. In terms of Italo I would recommend a song by Riz Ortolani called Corpo di Linda, it is unbelievably lush. Sometimes it can be a bit precarious mentioning influences as people tend to go back to the record and filter them out and look for them in places where they didn’t apply in the first place.”

You recorded this album in a “proper studio”, how much of a leap was that for you from your earlier work? “It meant we didn’t have to resort to sampling as much. The execution resulted in what you hear. Maybe technology can get in the way of songwriting on occasion but we made the LP we set out to. We are very lucky in that other bands have been very kind towards us since we started, everybody here helps each other out with gear and advice. In the past few months we started working with a photographer named Dorje de Burgh which has been a real benefit to the project.”

Can you tell us how you first ended up at Planet Mu? “I did a fair amount of research into labels that would suit us, admittedly it was a fortunate turn of events. Originally I sent them half a dozen songs and they came back looking for more. It took a while to finalize as they were booked up for the year but we put out an EP with them and an album in quick succession. We attribute a huge amount of our popularity to their knowledge and experience.”

What other labels or artists are you feeling right now? “Pye Corner Audio and Letherette have been regular fixtures for about a year now. Ships and Lasertom are certainly ones to look out for in Ireland.”

Can you talk a bit about your background? How did you and Rian first get together? “My musical background resides squarely with Solar Bears. We met at sound engineering college in Dublin. It was years later before we collaborated but it has always gone effortlessly. I’m really glad we met and are friends now. I’ve learnt a great deal from him.”

What’s the process like with you guys? “That’s quite hard to answer because it changes so much of the time. A starting point can be anything from an old/unheard vinyl sample to a melody we come up with on the fly. The album we are about to begin is bound to be different to Supermigration and we frequently want to try out contrasting approaches.”

Your name famously was inspired by Tarkovsky – what other film directors inspire you?
“Michael Haneke, Von Trier, Beat Takeshi, Antonioni, Shane Meadows and Andrea Arnold.”

You don’t play live very often – why is that? “It’s better to come at things from a fresh perspective, same goes for writing. That requires new experiences and seeing new places. We are planning on touring more at the end of the year.”

Can you describe your live setup for us? “We work with two of the guys from I Am The Cosmos and Glen from Jape as well as Sorca from Ships on vocal duty. It’s a full band with live visuals from my friend Hector Castells. The sound is pretty synth heavy with guitars, drums and samplers.”

You’re playing in Whelan’s with Sunken Foal – are you looking forward to this one? “Very much so, Sunken Foal is a producer we love. Everything he does has a high level of quality attached to it.”

When was the last time you danced? “At a Fuck Buttons gig last Saturday.”

What’s your drink of choice? “Matcha tea.”

Solar Bears play Whelan’s, Dublin, with support from Sunken Foal (AV set), on October 4. Tickets available here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 30 September 2013. Leave a comment

Recommended: Signal Life #05

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Since we featured the inauguration of Signal Life back in April of last year, instigators Teeth and Desto have steadily built an exciting outlet for those who like their beats low-down, broken and heavy. Their merry band of contributors has included LAS, Visionist, Last Japan, Zebra Katz, French Fries and Kowton, with each artist equipped with an array of distinctly individual styles across varying BPMs to help tackle the task of getting bodies moving. “Signal Life is more to do with a vibe, or a momentum…. that energy you can find in juke, underground hiphop, ghettotech, old school grime or garage…” was the duo’s self-stated ethos from the jump and they have undoubtedly harnessed that energy; the curation of the releases feeling uninhibited and free from any particularly defined expectations aside from dropping chunky, bass-fuelled club weaponry. The split 12” format over the first four releases has enabled the Finnish founders to showcase their own freshest constructions back to back with the aforementioned guest producers, juxtaposing wicked combinations of artists like Brooklyn’s really-quite-out-there Zebra Katz with French Fries’ inimitable Parisian flavours and Teeth’s fractured drum machine work-outs. Signal Life’s output seems to have dipped beneath the radar a little in comparison to the wider-scale dominance and crossover success of house/ techno-centric dance music this year. But along with solid core of admirers, we love the imprint’s unabashed mishmash of convergent sounds and murky weightiness here at Truants, a position strengthened further by just how great their imminent fifth record is.


Stream: Signal Life #05 – Preview

It revisits the killer line-up that graced SGNLF#02, throwing the Helsinki-based LAS into the mix alongside tracks from Teeth and Desto, with man-of-the-moment Kowton also coming through to deliver the release’s knockout blow. The Truants favourite has had a breakout year with that Jeremih refix and his preposterously rowdy banger “TFB” seeing release, not to mention stellar outings on Livity Sound, Hessle, Happy Skull and a fistful of remixes. His work has largely centred around variations on a theme that he has completely nailed, an intoxicating clash of techno and grime that jars with such a satisfying clatter. “Dub05″ sounds as though it was built in a rich vein of creativity around the time “TFB” was made and works to similarly striking effect. Almost completely bereft of melody, it angles strafes of pneumatic drill-like pressure towards his signature clap percussion accentuations. Muted horns and piercing high pitch notes drift ominously over deep pits of sub-bass as offbeat cymbals chug through like pistons; it’s a bewildering listen with syncopations being hurled at you from all directions but its devastatingly stark, club-smashing minimalism at its best. Teeth’s “Black Thigh Shakes” has an equally minimal crosshatch of grimy drum arrangements and ramped basslines but with a less oppressive atmosphere, instead there’s a definite booty-swingin’ groove and swagger to it as its title might suggest. You see him rocking the live setup at shows more often than not nowadays and the staggered introduction of each of the tracks would definitely bang hard in a triggered live performance context.

Whilst his summer has been relatively quiet musically thanks to the arrival of the Teeth household’s newest member, his partner in crime Desto has been prolific, tearing London superclub Fabric to bits on his debut, jumping into a last minute set Boiler Room at Flow Festival that was as bogged down with technicals as it was entertaining, and his most definitive work yet in the form of his amazing debut album on Rwina. “Cool Down The Dance” provides a white-knuckle ride of footwurk freneticism over a backdrop of synthesised strings and taut analogue bass, the results of which bang so hard it has us hoping for plenty more of his higher-tempo excursions in the future. As with all of his music, everything is so harmonically on point that he sets off the heavy subs and ‘floor-agitating beats with a real emotive quality. Signal Life #05 is rounded off by the preciously talented LAS, and his “Liketha” track that was a highlight from Desto’s Hush House mix in ‘11. The brittle drum-machine driven textures and rounded slabs of sub-frequencies still sound fresh considering the track is a few years old, but be sure to check his Soundcloud if you haven’t recently as this is a guy on a meteoric rise right now and some of his latest bits are ridiculous. The 12” is a fittingly excellent conclusion to their 5 release mini-series and in a creative twist for the avid followers who have picked up each one, keep ‘em peeled for an announcement on the Signal Life pages regarding a secret code that you may or may not have just completed…

Signal Life #05 is out on limited vinyl this October exclusively from Juno, Boomkat and Redeye. 

Words by Oli Grant, 26 September 2013. Leave a comment

Truancy Volume 81: Cromie & Sage Caswell

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Young guns Cromie & Sage Caswell may call Los Angeles home, but their sound is truly global. Both together and solo they’ve crafted tunes that push the boundaries of house music at a time when too many record crates are filled with carbon copies of classics. As individuals they’ve left quite the trail of sonic breadcrumbs (a yung Cromie even featured on our second Truancy compilation) but it’s together that they’ve assembled their latest release, the inaugural record on Brooklyn’s Peach. “Vines” & “Pyrex” are two tracks out of place and time, drawing from the past, present and beyond. No strangers to the club, for our 81st Truancy Volume the duo turned in an hour of dance floor burners peppered with a few tunes of their own.

Sage, you’ve mentioned that you started producing in your mid teens. Cromie, did you also start working on music early?
Sage Caswell: “Yeah.”
Cromie: “Yeah similar, took piano lessons for a while, got some gear handed down and gifted and made beats. I guess it was a few years ago that I started making music, using the same gear, with the intention of finishing tracks and sending it to friends I was meeting.”

Individually your tracks sound quite different, what’s your approach to collaboration?
Cromie: “After a couple of sessions starting tunes from scratch at my place, having known each other through having some dj gigs together, Sage showed me a couple of drum tracks he had been working on. They sounded just a little bit different from the other tracks of his I’d already heard, and I was immediately interested in working with them.”
Sage Caswell: “I had a few fully developed drum tracks that needed melodies, I felt Nik was an appropriate suitor and from there we started bouncing stems back and fourth. Since then we’ve started on tracks together, but we definitely continue to stick to original styles of trading parts and working seperately
Cromie: “We each contribute original ideas, and then work together at my place or his to shape and fine tune the track together. “Pyrex” was the first one we made, Tim [Rem Koolhaus] hit us up around the same time we finished it and we had already started on Vines. Tim was into that one too, and that’s how the Peach record came together. We’ve kept at it since finishing the Peach single, we have a good workflow going at this point and some more tracks in the bag.”

This is the first physical release for the both of you right? How does it feel!?
Sage Caswell: “Couldn’t be any happier with how this all worked out, all luv outs to man like Rem Koolhaus, he made it all happen.”
Cromie: “Tim is the man <3  It’s been an ambition of mine to get my music on wax for a while now, so yeah, lotta warm feelings to see the record spinning and for our music to come out. And it’s a trip to share this first go-around with the homie.”

You both spin at A Club Called Rhonda, which looks like one hell of a time. How has that experience influenced your tunes?
Cromie: Rhonda is one of the best things going on in LA and has been for a minute. As a gig, its a bit of a dream come true, the crowd is always havin’ it, plus its always a bunch of friends there, so its a great place to see what works on a packed, open-minded, but discerning dancefloor, as well as being an opportunity to play my favorite stuff and not have to temper anything.
Sage Caswell: “I had to use a fake ID to get into some of my first Rhonda parties, which were still at this cool spot in Silverlake called El Cid. Down the line at the last Rhonda to be held there, LA’s best kept secret (and fellow Rhonda affiliate) James Del Barco played a very tite nite with Tiger & Woods; Vibes were being thrown around all over the place (Video HERE). That night felt like a positive step towards where I feel like the city is now, everything feels right in the space. But really the reality of the situation is, Nik has a fantastic forthcoming record on Rhonda’s label, Rhonda INTL. In light of our collaborative efforts, Loren (Goddollars) invited me to play with Nik on a few occasions. Since then they’ve treated me like family, It’s really cool to be involved with a batch of folks who all love dance musics.”
Cromie: “The party with Sage was a big one. When I saw that we were on the bill with Moodymann, that was too wild! But yeah, I look forward to attending Rhonda every month, so every time I play is really a treat. As far as influencing my music, it’s impossible for me not to be influenced by the music I’m going out and hearing.”
“As far as I can tell, here in LA, there’s sort of two things goin’ on, the Hollywood-style clubbing, which we don’t really partake in, and a vibrant warehouse scene, where there is great talent playing pretty much every weekend at various cutty spaces. We really enjoy those. And then there’s Rhonda, which doesn’t fall into either of those categories, but is arguably the best party atmosphere that draws a diverse crowd without compromising on the music. So I guess the Rhonda experience encourages me to make music that has a broader appeal, without compromising my vision of what the music is about.
Sage Caswell: “Yeah, same.”

Finally, you Californians love to brag about your Mexican food. Where could we Truants snag the best taco in LA?
Sage Caswell: “I suppose it’s like New York & pizza, but honestly, there’s a Taco Bell at Rampart & Beverly that has never disrespected me. Also, any place that will deep fry a burrito is 5 stars.”
Cromie: Dollar fish tacos at El Siete Mares is a weekly ritual!

Truancy Volume 81: Cromie & Sage Caswell by TRUANTS

Continue Reading →

Words by Stephanie Neptune, 25 September 2013. Leave a comment

Track-By-Track: Drake – Nothing Was The Same

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Panel: Jon AlcindorKyle Brayton, Soraya Brouwer, Aidan HanrattySophie KindreichCayley MacArthur, Jess MeliaMichelle Myers, Warren O’NeillSindhuja Shyam.

1. Tuscan Leather

Jon: The production on this, my God.. Noah Shebib is at his peak; it’s just this whirlwind of hi-hats, bass, and colorful leads. Lyrically, Drake, he sounds hungry, but sensitive thugs will be reaching for their tissues by the end.

Sophie: Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” gets the chipmunk soul treatment from 40, who shines throughout NWTS but particularly on its intro – Drake says himself that he could “go a hour on this beat”. I can’t fault the production, but it’s the lyrics of “Tuscan Leather” that have really given me something to think about. That Drake can fire shots while reciting the alphabet (“aye B, I got your CD you get an E for effort“) is testament to rap music’s infinite ability to rephrase “I’m better than you’” into something that’s razor-sharp, quick-witted and fun to say out loud. A lot of people find Drake’s success-as-revenge motif relatable, myself included, and “Tuscan Leather” is packed with lines that resonate with those of us who privately consider our achievements a symbolic middle-finger to our critics.

2. Furthest Thing 

Kyle: “Furthest Thing” is one of my favourites, and it’s produced by Jake One, who’s responsible for Chance the Rapper’s “Acid Rain”. These two opening tracks are indicative of the production to come throughout the record.. lots of backtracking, soothing pianos, cloudy/dark atmospheres (aside from “Hold On We’re Going Home”), clear-cut vocals, and low-end bass.

Soraya: This is the one that resonated with me most during my first listens, and the one I keep going back to – the closest thing to perfect. For me it’s the song that ties Take Care and NWTS together, the opening lines say it all. Drake is on the rise and put out the record that shows him in a more confident place than before, and he makes sure to let us know he’s here to stay. I mean, there’s tracks about his come-up on all his releases but this is the record where his whole attitude changed. The sensitive Drake persona from his previous records is still in here before he changes it up, but it sets the tone for a more confident body of work. Best hook on the record, hands down.

Cayley: On a different note: has anyone noticed all of the rewinding/backwards sounds on a lot of the tracks? It’s in the very beginning of “Tuscan Leather”, a bit at 0:15 in “Furthest Thing”, “From Time” from 3:00 onwards…  Is this 40’s current favourite thing to do, or do you think it has some significance? I can’t think of any explanations that aren’t completely cliché. The only place I recall hearing this effect on a Drake track before is at the end of “Shut It Down” which was also produced by 40, but I could be missing something.

Kyle: I love the backpedaling production, too. I don’t think it’s saying anything necessarily, it’s just a nice trick that dimensionalizes the tracks and provides room for a switch up in tone/flow/narrative etc.

3. Started From The Bottom 

Aidan: This is new to me. This beat is pretty damn catchy, even if the feeling of the track is a lot more defensive than celebratory. That bass is infectious though. Lyrically, yeah. You done good but let’s be honest, saying you came from the bottom is just a bit disingenuous.

Jess: Don’t get me wrong, I love “Started From The Bottom” as much as the next Truant (except maybe Aidan), and “No New Friends” gets me everytime… But this “No new niggas, nigga we don’t feel that/ Fuck a fake friend, where your real friends at?” is kind of funny, isn’t it? I think Charlamagne expresses this better than I ever could.

Kyle: From the fact that Drake didn’t really start at the “bottom” but still gets a hood hall-pass for delivering a true banger that hasn’t showed signs of rust since its release back in February to the general “Fuck-You, I’m-Here-Now” quality (‘Imma worry bout me/ Give a fuck about you’) of the track, “Started From the Bottom” could very well receive song-of-the-year praise come December when the flood of year-end lists are revealed.

4. Wu-Tang Forever

Sindhuja: Excellent use of the best tune off of one the EPs by Zodiac that was out on Vase last year, making for probably my favourite production off the record.  People who are still complaining about the odes to the Wu-Tang Clan and Ma$e, I don’t get you. I think Drake’s odes on this album were super subtle and nice, the complaints honestly baffle me. Maybe people are upset about things like this because it’s too relatable, the fact that we grew up with the same things, under similar circumstances but Drake actually made success out of it? Drake is out here reading the same blogs and making money writing odes, collaborations and dedications.

Warren: Good song but, as with most tracks on NTWS, there’s not enough departure from what he’s already done. Some raps about one night stands with good girls, Toronto and how he changed the game all over a standard minimal moody Drake beat.

5. Own It 

Kyle: Does “Own It”  remind anyone else of “Practice” off Take Care? It has that slowed-down ladies’ jam “U got it girl, do U” appeal without the Cash Money sample courtesy of Juvenile. The lyrics “Next time we fuck I don’t wanna fuck/ I wanna make love” and “Next time I stand tall/I want to be standing for you” are the peak eye-roll moments of the album for me. But there’s always these moments on Drake records; it comes with the territory.

On that topic, I got frustrated this week reading a writer’s thoughts on NWTS in which she says NWTS is the most misogynistic album of the year, even more than Yeezus. I’m a huge Kanye West fan but I’m also the first to admit Yeezus was intensively misogynistic and that’s not okay. While provocatively lyrical and sonically adventurous, the overt misogyny cast an ugly shadow over what could’ve been a masterpiece. The case can be made that Kanye despises his exes (which is where all his misogyny originates) but in comparison Drake seems remorseful towards his exes.. he still wants them back even though they’ve clearly moved on.

I’m not saying Drake’s a golden boy or doesn’t condescend the female subjects of his songs but he is tame in contrast to the Weezys, Yeezys, Weeknds, and Rozays of hip-hop. This specific writer says the women of NWTS are many metaphors but one of which is a NPC in Grand Theft Auto; meaning Drake, if we follow this metaphor through, would be placed in the GTA world beating and murdering these woman without prejudice. It’s entirely far-fetched, especially for a rapper/singer who’s been universally labelled a “sensitive thug” and “soft”. Compared to his previous releases, NWTS seems more explicit than before as Drake has matured and maybe taken some vulgar cues from The Weeknd with more lines alluding to the vagina and his effect on it here than any of his previous outings. But this is commonplace in rap music, so maybe some things are still the same.

Michelle: I have probably thousands words worth of thoughts on this but the short version is that Drake brings out a lot of critics who normally don’t listen to rap music and so they aren’t ‘grading on a curve’ the way hip-hop fans tend to. Drake can be pretty condescending to the women in his music, though I do think some critics are kind of exaggerating how bad he is. I think it’s totally valid for people to explain why they, individually, are rubbed the wrong way by this kind of music. Continue Reading →

Words by Truants, 24 September 2013. Tags: | 2 comments

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