The first thing that springs to mind at the thought of Throwing Shade’s NTS shows is an overwhelming sense of discovery and wonder. She reaches far and wide for her selections, deftly shining lights on places often unexplored by many music lovers. Ventures such as her Muslim jazz showcases are hugely appreciated in a society that only seems to mention Islam when they can pair it with negativity, a world that filters cultures and histories through a white lens before we can interact with them. The way Throwing Shade presents these musics is on a very real and unassuming level; here are some things different folk have created, here’s some information, here’s some context – let’s not exoticise anything for not being Western and contemporary.
Throwing Shade is Nadihah Iqbal – producer, DJ, ethnomusicologist and recent entrant in our Truancy Volumes mix series. Her track “Chancer” appeared in Deadboy’s mix for us, released in the wake of her 19 Jewels EP for No Pain In Pop. 19 Jewels saw Iqbal dabble in different styles, always led by glacial synths. There’s the eerie grime-leaning “Once”, followed by the fluid pitch-shifting slow burn of “Real Bad”. The first track serves as a light-hearted daydream collaboration with Emily Bee, who also appears on Iqbal’s new EP for the same label, Fate Xclusive.
Fate Xclusive is Throwing Shade’s music after dark, whereas 19 Jewels was illuminated by the light of day. All four tracks (and their respective moods) are best served evening onwards. “Honeytrap” is unabashedly seductive, airy chimes and vocals imbuing it with a sort of breathlessness, and between Emily Bee’s alluring rhymes and the unshakable refrain of, “Honey, honey, drip drip drip,” it’s very easy to be comfortably caught in the web. Drawing to a close with emphasised whispers in French, ending with, “l’espionnage d’amour,” it wilfully embraces the typical hallmarks of Western romance without a hint of irony. Which is cool, because even the most extreme levels of saccharine are all good when you’re totally smitten with someone.
“4eva Fate” is the most straightforward club track on the record, really hitting home for the emotional and dramatic dancefloor crew. Whilst not particularly minimalistic, it does see Iqbal operate a more stripped back approach with only a couple of layers of haze enshrouding a driving house beat that’s stylistically derivative of that recent New York sound. As the claps, cascading strings, rising and falling synth melodies and crystalline pulses coalesce, you’re caught in a pocket of calm amidst a storm – watching rain shower down from indoors. “Mirror” and “4Drake” tone things down, the former a lament featuring some amazing vocal samples whilst the latter does all its talking through morose wanderings up and down the keyboard. However you’re feeling – and however the weather’s feeling – Throwing Shade has something prepared to match or really bring out your mood on Fate Xclusive.
Throwing Shade’s Fate Xclusive EP is out now on No Pain In Pop, available on vinyl or digital here.
Words by Tayyab Amin, 02 June 2015. Leave a comment
Who is the real Earl Sweatshirt? The question is more pertinent than ever as he strikes out alone on I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt. Produced almost entirely by himself under the alias randomblackdude, with a Left Brain beat and guest verse from the group’s quasi-member Vince Staples (the only Odd Future contributions), IDLS is the record Earl wants us to see as his manifesto proper. It’s the first album he puts out as a man after two often slapdash, occasionally brilliant solo outings with the boys.
This is a strange angle for Earl to come at us with, because IDLS presents us with someone struggling to reconcile the person he is, the person people thought he was, and the person he might become. Having always been the OFWGKTA member of the greatest lyrical promise, the weight of expectation that was exacerbated by the ‘Free Earl’ campaign, which drew Sweatshirt as a caricature of the already cartoonish, loquacious brat of his first self-titled mixtape. Whereas Doris often found itself caught between the poles of pandering to that perception and demonstrating growth, IDLS has Earl retreating (as the title might suggest) from a world that doesn’t get him. The trouble is that this sees him also toying with turning his back on the listener, himself and his craft.
The sound palette of IDLS is generally hostile, even alienating. Many of the beats simultaneously appear sparse and yet in danger of swamping themselves, with mucky ambiences skulking behind percussive sounds that could have been made by banging driftwood on an oil barrel. Drum patterns lurch drunkenly, with tracks like “AM // Radio” barely interested in holding a rhythm together at all. Occasionally a more sprightly production like “Huey” slips through, but these are brief excursions that seem designed more to laugh grimly at the idea that, while there was once a possibility of a lighter and more nimble record than IDLS (see the almost-banger “Mantra”), Earl’s intent on dragging the project down into the murkier corners of his psyche.
While Earl has obviously always found joy in the possibilities of language, much of IDLS sees him playing these purer joys off against the trauma of growing up in public and not living up to expectation, both other people’s and his own high standards. When he sulkily snarls ‘I don’t act hard, I’m a hard act to follow’ on “Grief”, the phrase comes off less as typical hip-hop braggadocio and more a man alienated by his own intelligence from the things and people he loves. This anger turned inward soon manifests in self-destruction, as Earl talks addiction and self-hatred, desperate to keep ‘my time and my mind intact’ but possibly not able to summon the energy for the fight. Ratking’s Wiki treads a similar line on AM // Radio, marrying literal abjection (‘spit out my food, hiccup and piss/urine burning, I can smell the liquor in this’) with acknowledgement of rap as a place of cathartic self-manifestation; ‘when I rap I blast off … keep my head screwed on and abuse these mics’.
However, Earl here needs someone else to do the work for him on this front. When he steps in later in the track, Earl is as couched as at any other point on the album, hitting blunts to stop himself from ‘yakking’ with his ‘mind in the trash next to where my fucking passion went’. While Earl’s troubles obviously run deep, the listlessness that pervades IDLS means that the whole thing feels rather formless. With the exception of the impressive “DNA”, his rapping throughout is languid, and while most of the time his lyrical deftness is enough to maintain interest the lack of hooks or drive mean that the album both feels longer than it is and yet ends abruptly a few seconds shy of the half- hour. Though this is fitting for a conflicted album from a conflicted man, one wonders if Earl might be confusing expression with venting, and if he has wilfully done away with a more nuanced offering in favour of this doomy, Doom-y piece. No doubt there is a great LP inside this man, but it might take a little while yet for him and us to find out who that man is. Free Earl.
Words by: Fred Mikardo-Greaves
Tom Demac is a name familiar to most by now. Originally hailing from North Wales, Tom’s interest in music was sparked by attending free parties in his teens. He’s moved around since then: first to Manchester, but has now settled himself in London. Having first released music via his own Electronique Audio imprint in 2004, Tom’s brand of taut, tough techno gained wider recognition towards the back end of the 2000s. Since then, a steady flow of releases have seen him work with a string of big hitters including Aus, Drumcode and Hypercolour. As his increasingly hectic touring schedule will tell you, it’s certainly an approach which has served him well. However, never being one to stand still, Tom has recently shifted his focus away from his barnstorming live shows towards the decks once more, while work on his long-discussed debut album also appears to be taking shape of late. Given these recent developments, it seemed like a better time than ever to catch up with the Welshman ahead of his appearance at this year’s Gottwood Festival.
Hi Tom, thanks for agreeing to the interview. How’s 2015 been for you so far? Have there been any highlights? “2015 has been great up to now. I’d say the highlight of the year for me so far has been an ‘Arnie All Nighter’ at a cinema in London. Back-to-back classic Arnie films with mates, along with a packed cinema shouting Arnie quotes and cheering his every move – it doesn’t get any better than that does it?” I don’t think it does! So what have you got in the pipeline for the rest of the year? “There’s an E.P. coming out on Hypercolour at some point over the summer, some cool remixes about to surface and a feature on a Cocoon compilation. No doubt, there’ll be another E.P. in the autumn too. All that alongside touring, and I’ve finally broken the back of this album I’ve been talking about for eons – that should be finished over the next few months. The album writing is definitely taking up most of my time at the moment.”
This album is something you’ve been talking about for a while. What can you tell us about it? “I’m definitely in deep album writing mode right now. It’s been a long and drawn out affair for me. Each year I’ve been attempting it and never quite getting it finished. It’s almost become a noose around my neck so to speak – I’ve constantly been pressurising myself into trying to make something ground breaking which isn’t really a particularly healthy mindset. So, this year I’ve had a good rethink and have tried to shelve all that pressure and all the inhibitions I’ve had. I’ve found the last few months have definitely been more of a natural writing process as a result. It should be completed very soon!”
Your love for hardware gear is well known and I assume they’re being used for the album. Can you talk us through your current set-up? Is there anything you’re itching to get your hands on? “I have a pretty unhealthy addiction to buying equipment, yes! (laughs) In my studio there’s a collection of old analogue keyboards and drum machines alongside newer bits like the Elektron Analogue Four and DSI Tempest. I swear by boutique guitar pedals too. Practically all my synths will end up getting run through a chain of about fifteen pedals – from delays, reverbs, pitch effects, distortion etc. sometimes ending up on 1/4” tape before being edited in Ableton.
Stuff I’m itching to get my hands on? I’ll stick to the cliché – a modular. I’ve had my shopping list ready for a couple of years, but I think it’s that worry of taking the plunge and disappearing down the wormhole of geek that’s holding me back a little bit. I already spend a worrying amount of time looking at people badly noodling on synths on YouTube as it is. If I added all the module demos to my playlists too, I doubt whether I’d actually ever end up getting any music finished.”
Looking at your touring schedule it’s clear that you take a wide range of gigs, whether DJing or playing live. How does your approach differ when playing out in different contexts? “Well, I try to stick to my guns in most contexts really. I rarely play warm up sets which is a bit of a shame as I really enjoy playing slower and chugging some music out at 116bpm. A couple of months back I played all night long at XOYO for Skream’s residency there. That was an opportunity to go really deep however the guy playing the first hour before me scuppered those plans somewhat. With regards to the bigger rooms, I’ll stick to my style. I find the theory of only playing ‘big room techno’ in a ‘big room’ complete bollocks really! So as they say, you’re telling me that because there are more people in this room the less likely they are going to be to respond to something with just the faintest of melodies or something vaguely interesting? Anyway, that argument is aimed at someone else and best saved for another day.
I think I’m performing live at Gottwood, which is something I’ve been consciously doing a lot less in 2015. The last few years I’ve been playing live at near enough every show and sometimes it just doesn’t quite translate. Not only that but I find that DJing more regularly keeps you more in touch and more inspired. When you’re touring as a live act it can all get a little insular, everything’s about you, the performance and preparation – the music is yours, this is you and there’s nothing else in between. I’m not sure that makes sense? Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that I’m selecting certain shows to perform live at, Gottwood being one of those shows.”
With you now making a conscious effort to DJ more, what music have you been feeling of late? “Mia Dora’s Un.sub on Optimo Trax stands out. I also finally managed to get my hands on a repress of Traumprinz’s Paradise With A Lobotomy. To be honest, it’s pretty safe to say anything by Traumprinz/DJ Metatron hasn’t been leaving my bag of late.”
What have been your favourite festival experiences down the years? “I’m lucky enough to be part of Freerotation Festival. It has been and always will be the highlight for me of each year. It’s just such an amazing small and low key festival experience that really is unlike anything else out there.”
Finally, what’s going to be your go-to drink this summer? “I’m going to shun the latest trends of Whiskey Sours and all that by sticking to the cheese with a Piña Colada. Yes, I know it’s a really shit choice, but this is a drink which is tried and tested, especially after being up all night. I will only drink it if it’s served in a pineapple though.”
Tom Demac will be performing at this year’s Gottwood Festival, which takes place in Anglesey, Wales, between the 11th and 14th June.
Words by Matt Gibney, 21 May 2015. Leave a comment
Artwork by Lucy Benson
Around a decade ago Jamie Teasdale flung himself into the consciousness of listeners worldwide alongside Roly Porter with the collaborative project Vex’d through the channels of Planet Mu Records. After putting out two much revered full-lengths, the pair decided to continue with their solo projects and from this, Jamie brought his moniker Kuedo to life. Sticking with Planet Mu, he released a couple of EPs and followed them up with Severant, a genuinely singular modern masterpiece that would go on to be heavily influential for years to come. Four years later, Jamie has now founded a label and art imprint together with Joe Shakespeare. With Knives, the two aim to encompass visual art, graphic design and a collaborative working process, functioning across genre confinements that exist in the creative industry today. Knives will soon have its first release from Truants favourite J.G. Biberkopf, and were heavily involved with Jlin’s fantastic Dark Energy that came out on Planet Mu this year.
For now, the label’s focus lies with concentrating on the select projects that have been lined up for the near future. “With Knives, we’ve got a really nice set of projects to work with already, and we really value the chance to work with such artists, so we’ll concentrate on coming through on those before we start taking much more on, or dreaming up bigger futures. It’s easy to slip into an competitive collection mentality when you setup a releasing platform, but you should be focusing on delivering a service for the artists who’ve entrusted you with their work. We’d rather work in a collaborative and mutually beneficial spirit, and focus on the materials at hand.” As for his own work, Jamie chooses not to talk up future Kuedo releases, as the last two years have been a long series of projects bouncing between label homes, and dividing out of one another. “At this point I think it’s better for it to exist first then talk about it. It will be on Knives, and it won’t be a retreading of a previous musical territory.”
Kuedo’s Truancy Volume parallels Knives’ ethos to defy borders and manages to seamlessly bond together all types of music that are exciting for club culture in 2015 – from the melodic vocals of Atlanta rapper Que to the transcending sounds of newcomer Sami Baha. Clocking in at just over forty five minutes, Truancy Volume 117 is a mixtape that’ll surely take you into another dimension, and shows that Kuedo is still roaming in an otherworldly realm; but one that is refreshed in 2015. “I wanted to do something influenced by club dynamics, but also I figured it should acknowledge that its going to be heard on headphones, at office desks, on the bus etcetera, rather than any actual living club space. So it loosens itself from rigid club logic and opens up some more airy spaces too. Last year I was testing the waters with discomfort and disruption in sets, this year I’m focusing on reconciling with the club space as an essentially social, celebratory space, and seeing how far you can work different zones into that without breaking down that social dance function. My own music in these past couple of years isn’t meant to have a club function, so I didn’t force it into the mix.” As for the perfect setting to blast this mix to? “I don’t know, I double checked it while sat in a doctor’s waiting room and it worked alright, seems flexible. I expect it will work in post office lines, bus stops. Various public transport & queue situations.”
(untitled) – J.G. Biberkopf
Flashlite ft. I-Octane – Ana Caprix
Sniper Riddim – Endgame
Maverick 1 – Sami Baha
CHUNKgodmodeEDITION – Sami Baha/Lotic
(untitled) – v1984
Kyselina – Drippin
Bounty – Amnesia Scanner
GFAAAB4mKWg3qAdMHrXRLk7a – v1984
Glowworms – Sharp Veins
Rigor Mortis – Shcuro
Shaded – Silk Road Assassins
(NASA) Domain Awareness System – Sami Baha
Kyoto – Drippin
Blood Trappings – Ninja Sword
Sliiingbraid – Sentinel
Celestial Sphere VIP – Nights Music
Climax of the Wolf Spider (Moleskin edit) – Rabit
Infrared (Bagua) – Jlin
Advanced – Ninja Sword
Ja Know Ya Big – Dillinja
Yes! Baby! – Ana3
That Cream – Carns Hill
Agnes Revenge – Objekt
08182013VX – v1984
MELT-BUGATTI_ – Sentinel
Words by Truants, 20 May 2015. 5 comments
The precocious Chester Watson has seemingly remained out of the bounds of rap’s radar; a lack of attention that could be framed, in addition to his music’s pillaring features (a tongue-twisting low-key rhyme, impending, decrepit instrumentals), as an ode to the DOOM-ish alternative underground sphere from which he scarcely crawls out—as much as he, as any other rapper, would grimace at the easy albeit lofty comparison. This board-hopper, apt for a Stones Throw landing as he is, goes unmasked; Watson’s musical project sounds like it could loosely stem from his Midwestern origins, less from his current Florida residency. As mentioned, his stock in trade alternates between his lyrical malleability and leery production chops, and with mixtapes like last year’s recommended Tin Wooki, wherein his own beats accounted for more than half of the extensive 28-track list, the final product is usually something to be consumed twice over: once to gape at an otherworldly snare or dodgy loop, and then to shudder at the rapping-half’s wry malevolence and follow his metal-tipped tongue. It’s not exactly unfortunate than that Guru Vol. 4 is another collection of just beats.
Guru’s fourth volume is only the third available as far as we can tell. Watson put out Vol. 2 just as many years ago and that remains to be the ostensible beginning of the series. If these instrumental mixtapes are themed, it’s subtlety so—Vol. 2 took on a bit of trippy vibe with left field textures and bass lines ripped from a Nightmares on Wax record, while its successor’s melodic/sample focal point generally centered around the Far East. But what Watson is arguably best at and does the most, in a production capacity, is icy gloom. It’s also the most common thread that has ran through the series up through this new volume. At twenty-something minutes a pop, Vol. 4 is a constant shuffle between unnerving compartments of atmospheres, as if these instrumentals were Watson’s way of retrospectively documenting a perilous subterranean escape from the layers of his conception of hell. What’s more killer? “No samples were used in the making of this project.”
Guru Vol. 4 was released on May 9.