2013 has been a busy year for Leon Vynehall. Not content solely with working his way through a hectic touring schedule, the Brighton producer has also spent considerable time in the studio with releases on both AUS Music and Well Rounded Housing Projects this year. Coming courtesy of Martyn’s 3024 imprint, the Open EP forms the latest addition to Vynehall’s increasingly impressive discography.
Opener “I Get Mine, You Get Yours” kicks off the four track EP in fine fashion; its’ pounding drum pattern the platform for abrasive synth stabs, morphed horns and an eerie and barely decipherable vocal snip. It’s the second track – “Step or Stone” (Breath or Bone” – which is the star turn here however. A menacing vocal is powered along by stomping percussive strikes while the winding, jarring synth melody is unquestionably infectious. A perfect big room weapon.
The frenetic nature of the A-side is eased somewhat by “I Know Your Face, Heroine”. The EP’s third cut is noticeably calmer, awash with soothing keys and a deep bassline. It only proves to be brief respite however with “XVII (Rox Out)” upping the ante once again. This time clipped vocals accompany a punching percussive beat that is guaranteed to get fists pumping and feet moving. Less conventional than the other tracks, it’s a perfect exhibit of what separates Vynehall from some of his peers as he continues to reinterpret familiar formulas in idiosyncratic yet perfectly club-friendly ways. Vynehall has certainly been on something of a hot streak lately and Open no doubt continues the producer’s upward trajectory.
Stream: Leon Vynehall – Open EP (3024)
Leon Vynehall’s “Open” EP is out now on 3024.
Words by Matt Gibney, 15 October 2013. Leave a comment
From Lee Gamble’s decimated ‘ardkore to Rashad Becker’s alien teleportation devices, the past few years’ output from Bill Kouglias’ Pan has been singular in both quality and reach. Despite a uniform tendency towards the outer limits, the often restrictive dance music world has embraced Pan with open arms, even as far as takeovers of “bass music Top Of The Pops” Boiler Room. Though often abstract, the connections Lee Gamble, Becker or Heatsick have to that world are written into the DNA of their work. Others, however, are more difficult to place. One such example is Helm, an alias of Luke Younger whose label Alter co-releases new the Silencer EP. Though he’s been operating for a number of years in and around DIY noise scenes, last year’s Impossible Symmetry LP was something of a watershed moment. On it, Younger joined a raft of auteurs from techno, drone, noise and beyond expertly continuing the lineage of post punk experimentation far into the future, a terrain so fruitful it’s fast becoming the dominant aesthetic in underground circles.
If this record can be considered a companion piece to last year’s, its title track certainly acts as an addendum to that LP’s “Liskojen yo”; although this time round Younger displays an almost uncharacteristic lack of restraint. The wiry, dying yelps that populated that piece are redoubled for the sequel, with uncomfortable whinnying feedback as disorienting as it is antagonistic. There’s a glimmer of Muslimgauze in the arcane drum patterns but a closer bedfellow might be found in uncompromising noise legends Wolf Eyes’ recent material, where their ever-present blasts of painful of high end have been given new emphasis through the use of ominous space and submerged rhythmic patterns.
That’s not to say the desolate drones of the previous LP have taken a backseat to a maelstrom of noise. Punctuated by muffled kicks, “Mirrored Palms” opts for the slow burn instead, its suffocating atmosphere gradually giving way to an infinitely reaching horn inhuman in it’s endlessness. Elsewhere, on closer “The Haze” stop-start rhythmic clicks evoke some hitherto unknown primitive, machinery drenched in darkness.
An obvious comparison is Raime’s widely acclaimed output on Blackest Ever Black, but where their work is undermined by an almost digital rigidity Helm’s is characterised by an extremely organic ebb and flow. Younger’s indecipherable combination of found sounds, electro acoustic techniques and subtle electronics is the key to this, successfully blurring lines to the point it’s impossible to determine the original sources of any given element.
It’s in this that Younger is a sound artist in the truest sense of the term, and it’s the quality that defines Pan’s roster. That the wider club music world has committed itself so fully to the label is understandable past the six (or less) degrees of separation that connects Pan’s artists to more dance floor friendly fodder. In a world where even those on the fringe are opting for the well worn twin clichés of being ‘rawness’ and ‘distortion’, it’s affirming to be presented with sound worlds of which only their creators truly hold the key. May their infiltration continue.
Words by Simon Docherty, 14 October 2013. Leave a comment
Often abbreviated as BAT, Best Available Technology is the alias of Portland based producer Kevin Palmer. First appearing in 2012 on Stephen Bishop’s now highly prolific label Opal Tapes as a split release with OND TON; BAT then went on to put out the impressive Excavated Tapes 1992-1999, Vol. 1 the following year on the always on point Astro:Dyanamics. Delving deep into a massive cassette collection he found when clearing his loft, the release featured some of the audio explorations he produced and recorded to tape throughout the nineties. Despite some of the tunes being made more than over a decade ago, BAT’s sounds operate effortlessly between approximations of warped techno, house and industrial noise rhythms that comfortably fit alongside the productions of some of his fellow label partners. With a seven track EP also released on Further and his recent contribution to the excellent BASH series on Style Upon Styles we had a long chat with Kevin about his formative years listening to hip hop, the Forbidden Planet soundtrack and his video creations among other things. With the news of a forthcoming EP on a well respected UK label and the prospect of some exciting collaborations too, Best Available Technology might be one of the most humble yet interesting producers to emerge in the last two years.
Just want to start with asking when did you take the first steps to getting your music released. Did people reach out to you or vice versa. “Well the first thing I did if I remember correctly is try to do a Myspace thing when someone told me about it. I’m always a few steps behind with the internet stuff. Like I appreciate it for what it is but I don’t really keep up with it if you know what I mean. I’m a little out of touch with that haha So I started doing the Myspace thing when I was doing this project with my buddy Max and that felt weird and I wasn’t really into it. I guess it was just my first taste of social networking. I can’t remember what time I was introduced to Soundcloud but it totally felt right and and it’s social network elements at the time felt really small and minimal to me. You just put your sounds up and sit back I guess. I was then fortunate enough to start chatting to Ben Thomas (BNJMN) who had obviously heard some of my stuff which definitely helped and I’m sure he played some of my tracks to Luke Owen over at Astro:Dynamics. Then Stephen Bishop from Opal Tapes getting in contact was completely out of the blue.”
You mentioned your friend Max. From what I understand it’s he who originally came up with the name Best Available Technology. Can you tell us a little bit about that? “Well, I moved back to Arizona for a year from Portland and he was already living there and he’s a writer and was pretty much a sound head as well. He does some spoken word stuff as well. I actually need to give him a lot of credit for helping me feel confident about my sounds. Like I had never really played my stuff to anybody. I have tonnes of friends who are into music and play in bands and stuff but I felt they wouldn’t be into my corner of music you know. So Max was totally into it and felt good about it and came up with the name. The name actually stems from written regulations in law to do with future tech and pollution problems. We have a lot of old stuff recorded actually which is great and I really enjoyed working on that stuff with him. I’m super proud of it so one day I’d like to get it out there.”
Are you generally quite open to collaborations and working with other people then? “I love it. It’s actually one of my favourite things about this and using any exposure I may get to connect with people that have the same kind of ideas about sounds or at least are into the same sorts of music I’m into. I’m working with two people at the moment who I can’t really mention who they are right now (there’s a clue in his Sonic Router mix). I’m just super excited about it though as both these guys do the coolest stuff.” In another interview you stated that you exchange production techniques with OND TON a fair bit. Was wondering if that had developed any further than just casual conversations about production? “At the moment no but then again Hugo is hard to get a hold of haha We’re friends on Facebook and every once in a while I reach out to him to try find him again. He likes to keep a pretty low profile I think. He’s such a nice dude though and his music is amazing. He should have had his own tape. He didn’t need me on there too haha That guy definitely needs to fill out an album full of his own music.”
We were reading a past interview and from what we can understand you listened to a lot of hip hop in your early days of production. Three 6 Mafia and Ice-T right? “I did. You know not so much way back. I don’t even know when they were putting stuff out, maybe 92? I guess I’ve always leaned towards that West Coast stuff like N.W.A and Ice-T. It was fascinating you know, being a kid in Southern California and then all of a sudden all that gangster rap explodes and it like really changed the culture for a young male in that part of the world. I was massively into skating at the time too and it seemed like all my friends were into this type of music. They were probably responsible for leading me onto that type of stuff actually. But you know what, I was still listening to a lot of punk rock stuff at the time. Loads of stuff such as JFA and other things on that level.”
Going through your influences list for the Ransom Note we couldn’t help be drawn to the Forbidden Planet soundtrack and how you mentioned that film and tv and had a massive impact on you too. “I guess when I put together that list I felt like the stuff I listen to at the moment wasn’t that at all interesting for an ‘influences list’ but with the Forbidden Planet stuff it’s the complete opposite. My idea with the list was to come up with stuff that I had heard before I even thought about doing music myself. Like before it even occurred to me that I could even do that or have an aptitude for it you know. So with film and tv the first interest would definitely be like the sci-fi elements, being a nerdy little boy and loving anything that had a whiff of science fiction and outer space. Then there were the sounds and there’s nowhere you can really hear that stuff. Those sounds were just so alien and unsettling. It must have been so bizarre hearing that when the film came out in 1956. So without even knowing it those sounds had a big influence on what I love about making sounds myself.”
We were also excited to discover you do your own videos for your tracks on Youtube as well as for others, such as that John Heckle Remix of Bantam Lions. Interested to ask how long you’ve been interested in those side of things as well. “Well we got a video camera when me and my wife had our daughter in 2000. It was just a Hi 8 so I couldn’t do anything digitally with it and I can’t really edit myself. I love photography and visual arts though so when I got a copy of Vegas I just started screwing around with it. Every time I use it to make one of those videos it’s just an experiment for me . What I like to do with it and because my computers have never really been that fast, is I can mess with the visual effects and automate things but when I play it back it doesn’t really look right and it kind of skips around. When you eventually go to render it, you never really know what it’s going to end up looking like. A good example is the video for “Ebb Uncut” which was released on Astro:Dynamics. The way it’s real shaky and the squiggles move really frantically, that wasn’t the intention. When I was making the video it seemed like everything was really smooth and fluid but it still kind of worked in the end.”
Going back to Excavated Tapes we wanted to talk about the selection curation for it and how you decided which works to commit to tape and which to leave off. “Well, I devote a chunk of time to ripping tapes. It’s such a long process and I have to sit and monitor them as the levels are usually pretty all over the place and I kind of have to ride the fader from the tapebox to the computer to make sure the levels are somewhat even. I guess a mastering person could fix them but I still want to make sure I can hear what’s going on myself. In addition, a lot of the tapes are really old and physically they’re a little bit fucked. I’ll start to play them back and I’m like ‘These are hammered, there’s no way they’re going to work.’ Sometimes it’s just a case of the spools being a little messed up and needing tightening but that’s always the initial process. Then I’ll end up with like one tape as long as two forty five minute sides that are full of sounds. I’ll go through and basically chop out the embarrassing parts. I had this funky little tape deck and I would just turn it on and record everything, so on a thirty minute tape there might just be fifteen minutes of me just screwing around with the SP12 and filling it with sounds and doing the most ridiculous approximations of a hip hop beat. Some of it sounded so dorky haha At one point I had a turntable and I would try and scratch and record it in. That will probably never see the light of day ha However I’m in the process of ripping some more stuff at the moment which I’m hoping will come out on Excavated Tapes Volume 2. So yeah I chopped out the embarrassing parts and sent the rest of it to Luke (Owen) who then sequenced and compiled the release.”
In a past interview you stated that when you were initially trying to make beats you would try approximate the hip hop you loved yet the approach was really naive to you. Do you think being naive back then helped contribute to the style of music you were making? “Yeah I do for sure. There’s definitely something to be said about approaching creative endeavours with that level of uncertainty, surprise and experimentation. Like I still don’t really know what I’m doing but it’s different now. Like I love gear and I love reading about it and I’ve just had that more exposure over the years to it all. I’ve still never had a guitar lesson and I don’t fully understand theory but I’ll learn a chord here and there. Maybe now on the mixer I’ll have a kick on one channel and a snare on another and so on but back then I would just have a drum machine going into a pedal into the tape deck ha So sometimes I have to kind of slow down and remember that it’s still fun to just use that crappy gear in the moment.”
Moving on, in an interview with Stephen Bishop he states that “his love for cassettes stretches beyond mere nostalgia and to him they’re legitimate sonic vessels for the music he loves.” Wanted to ask about your personal relationship with cassettes and what is it about the format that draws you to it. “Well, it’s funny you ask that because as I look around to the corner of my room where I have my gear there’s a milk crate overflowing with tapes that I need to organise. Just spilling everywhere. I’ve always had a tape player and there’s still one in my car. I don’t think I’ll ever get a CD player in my car. The one in there is a little bit beat up by I just love it. As a kid most people I knew had access to a tape recorder of some kind and it would be the first time you could capture sounds and play them back. It was pretty fascinating for me in ways and yeah that’s the beginning of the relationship. Then you just begin collecting them and it was always the format that I bought music on. It felt more accessible and portable than records, even though I’ve definitely bought many records over the years too. With the tape deck you could buy a tape and listen to it right there. Through the nineties they were also super cheap so you’d go into a record store and come out with handful of used albums for a fraction of what you’d pay on vinyl. Was very cool for like hip hop stuff where I could just buy it and drive around listening to it minutes after haha It’s a cool medium for music and even though I’m not a fan of when they start to get that tone drop out it’s still a format I’ll keeping coming back to. Cassettes have been pretty popular for experimental electronic music for a while it seems and even though I’ve never sought out that stuff I’m pretty sure there’s a healthy movement of people doing tapes. My exposure to that stuff actually comes from chatting with Stephen Bishop about sounds and he’s turned me on to a lot of cool stuff from that world. I’m a little out of touch with the more recent music but it’s something I enjoy being part of to an extent, you know.”
You’ve just had a release on Style Upon Styles for their BASH series. Can you tell us a little bit about that? “When they approached me for it I knew what the concept was and I loved it. I do quite a lot of different stuff and I don’t tend to stick to one style of music but I’d like to think there was some continuity in what I do. So for an opportunity to do a release that was a little conceptual and having a different kind of sound on each side was great. So I went through my stuff and picked out some tracks that I thought would be appropriate for it and then they made the final call. Getting some four by four stuff out felt right too as I had remembered listening to a lot of stuff by Bandulu, Jeff Mills, Jay Denham and a lot of tracks on Black Nation records and being blown away.”
With the Style Upon Style release was Nazusk, the designer of the stencilled jacket, chosen by you? I know he’s based in Sheffield so keen to know how you first heard of and got in contact with him. “I heard of him from this little zine called Nut City, which I think I first saw on Rewind Forward. They threw up a little thing saying check out this zine and I was blown away by his art. I’ve always been a big fan of graff so I saw his stuff, crossed my fingers and threw it out there for Phil from SUS to contact him and yeah he was cool enough to do it. I’m super proud of it and I’m so happy he was down for working with us. If I had the money I’d love to do some T-shirts! It just looks so cool. It resonates so nicely with the spirit of collaboration that I love so much about all this. What a crazy world we live where I can see his work on the internet and do this partnership haha Just this little package we’ve managed to all put together.”
Can we expect any live shows from you in the future or is this something that doesn’t interest you at all? “Never never, haha. Actually I will do some live stuff eventually I think, I just don’t feel like I have a way to do it that will be interesting to people. I don’t really have the drive to get out there in the world and voice my music on people at the moment. I don’t know actually, maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist but there’s also the reality that it scares the shit out of me haha I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s terrifying. I did actually do a performance with Max and my friend Jeff around around 2010 and somewhere out there on Youtube there’s a five minute thing of us doing this thing at an art gallery. That was a crazy experience. We basically did this droney, real drifty gig for what seemed like hours and there were these rock bands playing after us. That was fun but for the time being live shows may be a while.
Finally, what else can we expect from you in the near future? “I’ve got something coming on Left_Blank. That label is such a good look. I love the sonics and the aesthetics. There’s such a variety of sounds yet a strong continuity that I really admire. So there’s that and then I’m ripping a bunch of tapes to come up with more stuff to send to Luke. There’s also the collaborative endeavours that are in the work which I’m excited to get out.”
Words by Riccardo Villella, 08 October 2013. Leave a comment
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
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