Lechuga Zafiro is a wildly exciting producer from Montevideo, Uruguay. His name will certainly be familiar to you if you’ve spent any time indulging yourself in the NAAFI collective’s music, or spent any significant time tuned in to the likes of Rinse FM or NTS. It’s no surprise that his music is crossing these geographical boundaries and is now being played by the likes of the Her Records crew, Nguzunguzu and Air Max ’97. His music is at home in the club but not exclusively so, rhythmically complex and full of instrumentation that’s immediately intriguing. Up next for Lechuga Zafiro is Aequs Nyama, an EP that he’s putting out on Salviatek (a label he runs with Pobvio) and we’re delighted to be premiering a cut from it. The whole EP is scintillating listening but it also features a culturally important backstory that’s a vital part in getting a full comprehension of the record. With that in mind we got in touch to talk candombe drumming, Uruguay and everything else that plays a part in Aequs Nyama.
Lechuga Zafiro! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How are you today? “Good, thank you guys. I’m getting some label things done and searching for some music. It’s a pleasure to have this space to tell my story regarding Aequs Nyama.”
Sometimes I feel like we generalise when talking about South America and do a poor job of recognising that each country has its own culture, ways of thinking etc. So to start off with I wanted to ask what it means to you to be from Uruguay and how much it informs the music that you make. “Well, I have ambiguous feelings about my Uruguayan identity. It’s still a confusing concept to me. Uruguay isn’t the definition of “Latin America” that many people have. It’s not a super diverse society and it can feel claustrophobic here if you are not in contact with what’s happening in the rest of the world. There is a strong music identity here though, and candombe might be the rhythm that has influenced almost every genre: from tropical groups to intellectual music. The clave is in everyone’s DNA. It’s the simplest and most recognisable rhythm pattern that every Uruguayan knows. It’s proven to be fundamental in the way I produce music. I catch myself unconsciously replicating or deconstructing it in many of my productions.”
You mentioned candombe drums, and they feature heavily in Aequs Nyama. Would you tell us more about them, in both a historical and musical context? “Like the majority of the American nations, African descendants (first brought as slaves) have shaped Uruguay’s culture since its beginning, especially with music. Candombe is the result of various African groups expressing themselves through music, dance and religion, and coming up with something new. It’s essentially an Afro-Uruguayan expression. This rhythm is played by drummers on the streets of every neighbourhood today, and it’s present on many Uruguayan records. Drums in general have always fascinated me, a science of sequenced sounds and silences with its own intricate logic that gets inside people in a very subtle yet aggressive way. Candombe was the drumming culture I had most contact with, naturally, so it was easy for me to approach it and try to understand it. Many of my productions have some candombe influence, either adding its rhythm or its sounds. But I really don’t want to be tagged as a candombe artist, because I’m not. It’s not the only thing that influences me in the music I make, it’s just one of the many things I try to incorporate into my sound world.”
You feature candombe from three different candombe groups on the record, including one on the track we’re premiering. Triangulación Kultural, C 1080 and Ansina. Were these recordings made specifically for the record or were you working with existing ones? “It was mixed really. At the time that this project began, the C 1080 drummers and I were already doing some music experiments: improvising, recording and playing live shows. In August 2013, they were hired by a famous vocalist called Elli Medeiros to record drumming for her record. It was at Montevideo’s best music studio (Sondor) so C 1080 asked her if we could borrow one hour of her studio time to record our thing, and she said yes! Regarding Triangulación Kultural and Ansina, I was working as a sound man for a documentary in process called “Negro” (A Bandido production), which is about candombe culture. So we arranged another session in Sondor with Triangulación Kutlural. We set up a mobile studio in the streets of Palermo, Montevideo to record the Ansina guys.”
Did you talk to the artists at all about how they felt appearing in this more modern club context? “Of course. Part of this project also wants to give visibility to the founders and people who continue to express themselves through candombe. I talked to every representative of each group, sending them the music and telling them about the Aequs Nyama EP. No secrets here, they’ll receive 40% of each track sold in which they have participated. We thought it was a fair share regarding how much drumming there is on the record, and how it meshes with the other elements. Salviatek is still a super small label, so it won’t be significant money. It’s more to establish a true dialogue and show that we care.”
There’s such a vast assortment of sounds on the EP. We’ve got candombe, sci-fi effects, things from nature. Was this juxtaposition between old and new intentional? “I feel like the idea is nothing new. This approach of mixing the old with the new is kind of outdated to be honest. Aequs Nyama wasn’t about making a trendy, connected-to-the-club scene record. The process of finding the right sound foundations of the project took way too much time to try and make a record like that. It was more about focusing on finding my own voice through these elements I chose: candombe drumming, processed acoustic sounds, animal samples and sci-fi effects. It was really about making a sound statement. The project has now proven to be the base of how I express myself when producing music. I think it’s from now on that things will get interesting.”
There’s also a whole host of instrumentation on the record that I and I think a lot of people will be unfamiliar with. What sort of things did you use on Aequs Nyama? You’ve also mentioned previously that the EP features an instrument that you designed yourself? “Each track of the EP has its own specifically recorded leads: “C vs S” features a ceramic jar I stole, quickly recorded and secretly returned to a movie set while working at a film production. It’s also got a detuned and chopped Colombian gaita. “Tambor Espada” has got two Peruvian sikus. “Ayida Weddo” features a kind of primitive instrument I designed for a group called Camposanto: it’s basically a metal and wood structure that holds various wires and iron pipes, amplified with contact mics (à la Neubauten, but more amateur). All these instruments were recorded at my house and then heavily processed on my DAW.”
You created a website featuring a biotech device to go along with the EP’s release. What led you to doing this and could you explain the theory behind it for those of us who don’t speak Spanish? “Aequs Nyama is just a crazy idea that represents the human synthesis-meets-nature obsession we have over at Salviatek. Aequs Nyama would be a “biobot” device designed by Saviatek Corp, that helps your body to stay balanced. Through its tentacles, it’d understand what your body is lacking in terms of essential nutrients and chemicals. Based on that analysis, it would then print specially prepared food with e.g.: 50% lipids, 25% adrenaline, 25% minerals- through it’s farmbags®. This visual project is a small representation of what I see as the inevitable union between CPU’s and biological organisms. I also take it as a parody of the tech-companies from our era that have built an indisputable, almost religious reputation. The device was designed by Art Belikov. The website was done by Bao-Tran Tran. The final stage of the album cover was done by Pichón Ameba. You can find full info (in Spanish) and images here: http://aequsnyama.com/“
You’re putting this record out on Salviatek, which is your own label right? How and why did you start Salviatek? “Salviatek started last year as a party. Together with Pobvio, we felt we needed a space in Montevideo to show the music we produce and love. It felt natural to amplify this idea and start a label, that quickly wants to extend its arms to Brazil and Argentina where we have friends who are now working on future releases. A particular vision of club music unites us, free from structures, speed and genre rules as to what you should in a club.”
I noticed that you and Pobvio are going b2b with live drums from C 1080 for Salviatek 9! You must be excited about that? “Yes! We are working hard on a DJ set made of 90% new productions for this one, just rehearsing with the drummers and finding an interesting, danceable dialogue. The record’s release party is held in one of the most respected clubs in Montevideo called Phonotheque, so we’re excited about this one.”
Who are some of the artists you’re working with that we should be on the lookout for? “Pininga is an upcoming producer/writer from São Paulo we really dig. Superficie has also been doing stuff that we feel is in line with the label. Joao Pavigo has really crazy ideas, he’s from Rio, and there’s Tayhana who’s a great DJ from the Hiedrah crew (Buenos Aires).”
As well as the four originals, you’ve got two amazing remixes on the EP. Would you tell us about them and why you asked these producers in particular? “Remixes are from mobilegirl (Staycore) and Blacksea Não Maya (Principe). Mobilegirl is a cool gyal I met in Munich, we connected through Dinamarca. She’s super talented, and she’s also helped us a LOT in our Salviatek adventure. The Blacksea Não Maya guys were recommended by the Principe crew, who we love and respect. Look out for the Aequs Nyama remixes EP coming out soon too!”
You had a remix on the new MM EP, a track on the latest Track Meet compilation and of course you’re doing stuff with NAAFI. Would you tell us a little about these relationships? “NAAFI is crucial and a part of my music identity. We all share music within the crew and send feedback to each other. I definitely feel we have many philosophical and aesthetic ideas in common. The MM remix was crazy, as I was already a fan of Her Records and playing “9th Ritual” when they asked me to do the remix. The OG is still way better though hehe! Ynfinyt Scroll wrote me at the beginning of the year to contribute to their Track Meet comp, and the idea sounded cool.”
OK, last question! We’ve got this EP and your Salviatek shows. What else is coming up for you? “Still working on my NAAFI EP and the Aequs Nyama remixes EP. That means loads of studio and office work, which is great!”
Aequs Nyama will be released on Monday and you’ll be able to buy it here.
Words by Matt Coombs, 12 November 2015. Leave a comment
There are a number of oxymoronic ironies about this release. Firstly, that a label set up with the intention of releasing singles should give an album unto the world. Second, that a label called Technicolor should release as said first album a record so imbued with a sense of greys and crisp monochrome vistas. Indeed, the album is inspired by “Nigredo and possession of the shadow”, Nigredo being the first stage of the alchemical process, meaning blackness, a state of putrefaction or decomposition. Romantic Psychology 1 is the “debut” full-length by the Levantis persona (an identity easily discovered, a mask not worth exploring for the purposes of this review), following a release for The Trilogy Tapes, and it sees the artist dig deep into a world of murk and sludge, stumbling awkwardly across a forbidding landscape. “Red Blocks”. “Colour”. “Slow Electronic Beat with Colour”. These track titles contradict the bleak darkness that underpins the album, only at times poking fun at the overall mood.
This album is short, it’s one that you can get through in a lunch-time wander around town, but it’s worthy of more than a scant listen. It comes to life with the mournful whirring of “Exploding Boxes”, which in essence is a chopped and screwed version of another track from the album. Dolorous bass, gurgling noises and recognisable melodies introduce a juddering, uncertain feel, which lasts throughout. It’s not an easy record; there’s no comfort to be found here. “Red Blocks” is utterly dank, a (relatively) lengthy trip into some shadowy fog. The distant piano tones of “Colour” are offset by throbbing, tuneless bass, while the listless stomp of “Whispering Sky” belies what may or may not be corroded samples underneath. “Undr”, which seems louder, harsher than the tracks around it, sticks out with its snarling, mechanical hiss and pinpoint laser drops (though these appear throughout the record, somehow working just as well in each frame of reference). What purpose does it serve, this brief, pulsing trip? It jolts the senses, being completely at odds with the dainty plod of “Yogurt” or the epic brevity of “Pieris Rapae”. In time its presence seems more and more apt, however, the pummelling mechanics as dank and oppressive as the bubbling hiss of “Stained Glass” immediately afterwards. Similarly, “Slow Electronic Beat With Colour” feels pithy after “Jamaican Greek Style”, the coda to the opening track’s exposition, but it lifts the listener up after what could have been an overly morose climax to the record. It’s a beautiful way to finish, showing unexpected lightness and humour. That said, it comes too soon.
To repeat: at just 32 minutes the album is short. Too short one might say. After hearing Ben UFO play all 10 minutes of “Jamaican Greek Style” on the Hessle Audio show in September, one might have expected that the album would be full of such lengthy jams. Alas, no. In some ways this further highlights the slow, unfurling majesty of that track, the penultimate number on this album, but on first play it all seems a bit disappointing. Yes, this succinct focus ensures the album never strays off its path, nor outstays its welcome; this greedy listener just wants more.
Levantis – Romantic Psychology 1 is out now on Technicolour Records.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 12 November 2015. Leave a comment
Sim Hutchins is a relatively new name to us. He first caught our ear when he featured on The Bedroom Club III, a mini-compilation put together by No Pain In Pop a few months ago. This feature preceded an album, I Enjoy To Sweep A Room, which was released last week. It’s a gloriously dark affair, all decomposed beats and abrasive washes. The Fader ran with a headline that “Sim Hutchins’ Debut Album Is 2015 AF”, so it was appropriate that we had a lovely conversation over Google Chat recently. He told us about the album’s concept, how he loves to make music with lo-fi gear, and how if something’s not on Discogs, well it just doesn’t exist.
Hey man. “How do? Just been working on some new projects today.” Can you shed any light? “My good friend Owen, a fellow video artist, poet and outsider-folktronika hero (recording under the name O.D. Davey) has vocalled something I sent him, we’re looking at doing an EP of sorts. He had an album out on Tomlab this year.” Oh sweet. How do you see that collab going, would you meet up and sketch things out or just send files back and forth? “We live pretty close to each other, but he’s pretty much recorded all the vox in his bedroom and the track’s practically done now. He has an amazing work rate, which I would struggle to match if I tried to do even a quarter of the stuff he accomplishes in a month! I work in a more ponderous/obsessive manner.” Does that mean things take their time in seeing the light? How long ago did you start working on (what would become) I Enjoy To Sweep A Room? “Yeah definitely, I do like to just mull things over for a while after they’re done. The album was about two years in the making, but a lot of the tracks I ended up shelving and that became the Ecology Tapes release. “Tie Me To A Rocket” was the first track I made for it, and it was actually a demo I sent to No Pain In Pop when Tom K originally contacted me.
That’s interesting. I was going to comment that the Ecology Tapes release seemed a lot more hazy and abstract, but I guess you just put each bunch into different groupings, for want of a better word? “Yeah totally. I mean I Enjoy To Sweep A Room is kinda electronica-based tracks punctuated with ambient interludes, and that was my plan for the flow of the record to be fair. It’s weird as you do have to work a little to time constraints for a single 12″ vinyl so I did bear that in mind as the record came together. “Nihilism Was Not Sustainable” could have been 25mins long!” Was it always in your mind that the album would be getting a physical release? “Yes, because of the label that was putting it out. I love how NPIP are really into the physical product side of the label, they’re on their 49th release now and I’m pretty sure that every one was either 7″, 12″ or a CD. I was a huge fan of them before I even pondered the thought of releasing a record with them.”
I actually have in my ~notes~ that “Nihilism Was Not Sustainable” is ‘epic length’ so it’s funny you say it could have been almost three times as long. “Haha, yesssss. Originally I made the track to fit around two video loops from a Boiler Room clip. How does that fit into the album narrative? Well this track is supposed to represent a sort of process of death, it’s the track before “Brick Through A Church Window”, where you’re kind of experiencing the ultimate destruction of past ideals. It’s a kind of leitmotif for either staying in the past (one that’s fraught with a perpetual pain of sorts) or moving into the light, so to speak. The fact it could be twenty-five minutes was because I picture a kind of purgatory scenario happening, and that scenario takes place in a club.” That’s quite beautiful. Those piano sounds are quite shrill and haunting, I totally get that.
How much of a concept is there to the album? Without giving too much away of course. “It was quite conceptual in a way. I mean I’m pretty much going to paste you what I sent the label after I finished it, as I don’t think I could just explain it quick enough.
The first four tracks experiment with multiple assumed personalities, like how the paranoia in “I Felt Like A Fox” conflicts with the unflinching rebellion of “Isolationist Revival S.Q.U.A.D.”, the blind serenity experienced in “Concrete Over Roman Gardens” is in stark contrast to the simultaneous fluxus of the self on “I Will Unite The Hood Through My Vision”. Meteorically you are slowly sealing yourself into the bell jar. The next four mark narrative of assumed control, loss of control, denial and refusal to acknowledge that these ideals have been followed in vain. Finally, through “Brick Through A Church Window”, we experience the ultimate destruction of these past ideals. I see the final track as a post-Room 101 scene, that the forced-conversion has taken place, and so can begin a metamorphosis and transcendence into the unknown, one where your previous values are rendered meaningless and that’s okay. It is submission in a different way to nihilism, less ‘nothing matters‘, more ‘what does it matter?’
“A side note is that the piano sounds on “Nihilism” come from a toy Casio keyboard, I’m really into using plastic-y horrible sounds and making them seem legit.” You used that Casio a lot, is that right? “This was some little one, but the CZ was the main instrument for the whole LP it seems (minus drum sounds and maybe some bass lines).”
“I Will Unite The Hood…” featured on the NPIP Bedroom Club Comp — that was a nice teaser for the album I thought. Was that the plan when the track was picked for that release? “Yeah we did talk about how it would be a great introduction it being part of that comp, and it’s one of my favourite tracks off the LP (my one, not the comp — lol).” Whatever about the attendant baggage of the term, would you consider yourself a bedroom producer? “Yeah totally, I mean my studio IS in my bedroom. I think maybe that tag is fraught with prejudice, or maybe people use it as a sort of apology of sorts — ‘oh I just make tunes in my bedroom’ — I notice that also with things like Fruity Loops. And I think that’s why I like the idea of using ‘toy’ Casios, knowing that these things that kids bash about have produced sounds that are coming out of club PAs is hilarious in a way.” An in-joke with yourself? “Yeah totally.”
Just to go back to the Ecology Tapes for a second, did you have any dealings with Joe Shakespeare, who featured as Klaar with O.D. Davey on the other side of your tape? How did that come about? “I’ve known him for years, we met at a house party. Honoured that his work was on the other side, he’s a super talented producer, just too humble with it.” Has anything happened with that label since? I know you said they put it out with little fanfare.” Yeah there is a second one now, actually really fucking good.” Oh someone’s been slacking, it’s not on Discogs. If it’s not on Discogs it doesn’t exist. [We type simultaneously] “It doesn’t exist then” — “completist. looooool snap basically.” Although the Bedroom Club Vol III isn’t there yet either. “Oh shit really?” Not that I could find, no. “Some nerd’s been slacking.”
Parts of the album (“Concrete…”) felt a bit like a more computer-minded Forest Swords — and then I clocked he had released on NPIP too. Was that coincidence? “I really like and admire his work, and maybe that crept in, but I recently found a tune I made in 2009 that Tom K said sounded like early Forest Swords demos. Naturally I hadn’t heard of him at that point, so maybe we just share a similar taste?” Interesting! I think it was largely this one moment of guitar shred. “Ha! Yessssss I know what you mean! There is literally no guitar on my record, I just faked it with distortion.” Oh even better! Last thing. “Wasp Cell” has this sound of electronic, digital rain, it brought to mind the imagined sharks in The Raw Shark Texts and the weird cyber-dogs in Vurt. I don’t really think this is a question, but I guess it ties in with the broader narrative you mentioned earlier. “Yeah totally. It was definitely imagined first, I wrote it in a half-awake state just after waking up/being half awake. I quite like doing music like that.” Amazing. It’s cool to hear about music being made like that. “I read a great article about it once. I really like that weird hazy feeling after you’ve passed the drastic-need-for-sleep stage. I think that’s a really creative place.”
The artwork is deliciously basic. Is this tying in what you said about the plastic sounds, foregrounding something basic and rendering it legit, as you put it? “Yes totally, I found Simon Stage (the artist behind the cover artwork) on Twitter. I was really into his work as he shares a similar outsider-artist mentality, occupying an obscure corner of twitter and utilising techniques that seem dated as of 2015, all with a sort of retro-futurism feel.”
Sim Hutchins – I Enjoy To Sweep A Room is out now on No Pain In Pop. Buy here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 11 November 2015. Leave a comment
Dallas-based artist Cygnus has been producing a steady number of releases on labels such as Recondite, Icasea and his own Biosoft in recent years. He’s also put out several albums for Sheffield-based electro outfit Central Processing Unit, inaugurating the label with his 2012 effort Newmark Phase. Coinciding with a recent lengthy US tour in support of Autechre, Radical User Interfaces sees him return to CPU and consolidate his take on crisp, space-leaning electro.
Across four tracks he ventures deep into extra-terrestrial territory, approaching his given style in a manner that’s at turns dark, sinister and playful, each cut dancing around a singular theme. The title track features a jagged, buzzing synth pattern that plays across a simple four-bar phrase, its unexpected notation giving a malevolent edge that’s only undercut by what sound like floating whistles and an airy set of higher melodies. ‘Nexus Telecoms’ opens with a synth gurgle that stands outside bar lines, a growing development that builds into acidic murmurs for the track’s duration. While ‘Radical User Interfaces’ is snarling and serious, ‘Nexus’ is wide-eyed and interested. ‘Arcade Killers’ uses synth washes that become digital trills as soon as the heavy soak of reverb drips away. Despite its title there’s a knowing glint to it, killing the game rather than the player. The eight-minute ‘Electronic Slave’ seems to close things on a sombre note, pitting downward arpeggiated synth blips against searing buzz before bouncing chords lend expansive gravitas, phrases drawn out artistically rather than used for function alone. Overall, Radical User Interfaces feels like a space opera, the soundtrack to a dramatic video game or tongue-in-cheek B-movie.
Cygnus – Radical User Interfaces is out now on Central Processing Unit
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 10 November 2015. Leave a comment
By now, an artist as celebrated and established in the scene as Dave Huismans needs little to no questioning on why any record he puts out is a straight in the bag purchase. Be it under A Made Up Sound or 2562, the last ten years have seen Huismans deliver some of the most uncompromising and unconventional records to grace clubs and headphones the world over. As A Made Up Sound, his currently most active project, his take on house and techno has seen him filter between labels such as Delsin, The Trilogy Tapes and his own self-titled label.
Tracks like “Take The Plunge (Beat Mix)” and “Endgame” excel way beyond what could ever be considered a ballsy production – rather, they are curveballs in the greatest possible sense. This year Dave’s kept busier than ever – dropping the third instalment in his Archive 12″s for Clone Basement Series, collaborating with Dynamo Dreesen and SVN for the 20th release on Acido Records, and dropping remixes for Koehler & Kuno and Asusu. To top that all off, the new double pack of releases on his own label features one of the stand out tracks of the year for us -“Half Hour Jam On A Borrowed Synth”. Taking A Made Up Sound in exciting new beatless territory, we’ve been told the track got a huge reaction when the Hessle trio dropped this at Free Rotation and it’s been known to start off Dekmantel sets in brilliant fashion too.
As someone we’ve been wanting get to in for a very long time, we’re thrilled to be sharing a new mix from A Made Up Sound for our Truancy Volume series. Featuring a ton of unreleased and forthcoming music from fellow producers such as Minor Science, Peverelist and Anthony Naples, our 130th Truancy Volume clocks in at 25 tracks for an hour an a half session. On the mix, Dave himself says: “It’s a bit of a slow burner. When I record a mix at home or play on radio I enjoy using the opportunity to start at lower tempos and draw for tracks that I don’t usually get around to playing on a club night at peak time, then gradually increase the pace from there. There’s some new and recent things I like, along with quite a few older favorites I rediscovered going through my record shelves with this mix in mind and wanted to show to people who may not have heard them the first time around. I didn’t go for a particular theme or anything, but listening back I noticed the mix keeps going back and forth between dark and light, and between dense and breathing. So I guess contrast is the name of the game.”
A Thunder Orchestra – Shall I Do It? (Bio Rhythm)
Ryota OPP – Zombie Boogie (Meda Fury)
San Proper & Steven De Peven – Pam Pam (Rush Hour)
Randomer – Bell Jam (L.I.E.S)
Pev & Kowton – Junked 2 (Unreleased)
Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion – A Crippled Left Wing Soars With The Right
(DJ Sprinkles Steal This Record Club Mix) (Skylax)
Sala – Mythos Tales (Unreleased)
Drvg Cvltvre – Where Embers Die (Forthcoming Pinkman)
Gez Varley – Violator (TP Heckmann remix) (edit) (Force Inc)
Insync & If – MASP (Mark Broom remix) (Plink Plonk)
Mio Mio – B (Proibito)
The Maghreban – Wonder Woman (Versatile)
Titonton Duvante – The Pleasure (Residual)
MM/KM – B1 (Forthcoming TTTPalace)
Anthony Naples – Smacks (Forthcoming Proibito)
Visit Venus – Planet Of The Breaks (Herbert remix) (Yo Mama’s)
Nick Holder Presents Fruit Loops – The Message Is Love (edit) (Definitive)
? – ? (Whitelabel)
Nubian Mindz – Montage (Archive)
Neuropolitique – Wide (New Electronica)
Tessela – Swimming (Unreleased)
Batu – Void (Unreleased)
Pev – Grit (Forthcoming Livity Sound)
Chevel – Loop #42 (Minor Science Remix) (Forthcoming Stroboscopic Artefacts)
Words by Riccardo Villella, 09 November 2015. 2 comments