What a time to be a Truant. Autumn’s release schedule is like a cheesecake, real late at night: sensational. But we couldn’t proceed without giving the summer its due, so we’ve got a bumper edition of our Sunday’s Best column to top it all off. We’ve kept ourselves busy with various mixes and features popping up and popping off, but we’ve gotta share the things that keep us moving on the day-to-day too. Nayvadius’ Dirty Sprite 2 tied as the most popular record Truants had on rotation according to an exceptionally formal and stringent internal survey, but Future and his Hive are already doing a brilliant job of making themselves heard. Shouts to Vince Staples, who drew with Future – his Summertime ‘06 is fantastic, yet still feels underrated. You’ll find many of the things we dug below, and we’ll hold one up for the blurbs that never made it out – from Kehlani and Travi$ Scott to DJ Richard and Jack J.
There must be something in the iced tea over on the West coast at the moment because all the best albums have come out of there: Kendrick and Jay Rock to Earl and The Internet – and now Vince. He gave us a taste at the end of last year with the outstanding Hell Can Wait EP and this time he delivers a double album of more of the same – but better. On the one hand, the video for the Future-sampling “Senorita” (hands down one of the best videos of the year) depicts White America passively watching whilst everyone else self-destructs, but Vince knows too well that in order to keep it real he has to tell both sides of the story: “Within hip-hop music, we want to be the biggest shit ever, but we don’t want to take responsibility for the things that we say. We want the pop sales and the pop marketing and the pop advertisements. But you refuse to not say certain things. You refuse to not over-glorify drug culture.” Summertime ’06 is a huge statement, not just because it’s his Def Jam debut but more importantly it showcases his ability to be consistently great, across twenty tracks and in less than an hour’s time. It’s a whirlwind, access all areas tour through both his mind and his neighbourhood. He’s truly in a league of his own.
As far as years can go, Hunee has had a pretty astonishing one. He’s kept a low profile over the last few years, but in 2015 he’s curated the excellent compilation of Soichi Terada’s work in Sounds From The Far East, released an LP on Rush Hour, and has had a seemingly relentless tour schedule. It’s all paid off for him, as he’s steadily solidified himself as one of the most recognisable names in the currently crowded world of house music. For people who love house, it can feel rigid at times, and the joy it’s supposed to bring bleeds away. Hunch Music works as an antidote to that. It abandons any kind of essentialism and in turn offers up Hunee’s playful and fresh outlook of what club music can be. Whilst explorative by nature, Hunch Music is undeniably nods to the past too. “Crossroads” and “Rare Happiness” are rejuvenated, quirkier versions of house records that have been kicking around for the best part of two decades and in “Hiding the Moon” it feels like he’s doing his best Levon Vincent impression (it’s a pretty good impression to be fair). But it’s the little, slower bits like “Burning Flower”, “Bruises”, and the Sun Ra-sampling “The World” that make it feel like a holistic work, adding that bit of spark to a lush, welcoming and exciting album.
Although initially released in 1991, “Low Tension” by Manabu Nagayama & Soichi Terada entered the summer jam canon this year thanks to a reissue from Utopia Records. Lighter than air, “Low Tension” comes together delicately. Intricate percussion and a frothing bassline anchor an ocean of synthetic waves. Did we mention there’s also a killer flute workout? In addition to issuing a number of Japanese house classics in the early 1990s, Soichi Terada’s label Far East Recording served as a conduit between Tokyo and NYC, linking up with King Street Sounds, Pal Joey, and even the legendary Larry Levan. Once the purview of Discogs speculators, his catalog is slowly making its way back into affordable territories via Rush Hour, Creme Organization, and Hhatri.
Just about everybody’s favourite ‘summer record’ from this year, we couldn’t do a round-up of the sunny season without dJJ‘s “just a lil”. Released by Crazylegs in time for the end of festival season, there’s zero pretense with this house hit. It’s simple, armed with a wildfire infectious bassline, possessing those intangibles which have you throwing your worries into the recycling bin whilst on the floor. Since summer has inevitably turned to autumn, the Bristol-based label has followed up with a club mixes EP, comprised of a double length extended mix and three all-new remixes from the extended family. Suda’s on a soca flex, Gage goes berserk with the original palette and Finn comes knock-knocking melancholic with his inimitable RnG stylings. All essential. Last year, Crazylegs brought us Tommy Rawson’s “In All My Days” for the summer house anthem stakes – if we get something as good as these two next year we’ll be very lucky indeed.
Logging onto DatPiff these days, there’s the normal boxes to tick when browsing. Boomin? Check. Ty Dolla $ign feature? Cheque. Like crossing off IKEA flatpack furniture items before spilling out the contents, the names alone can dictate the experience itself, sometimes giving a false illusion of plenty. Spitta AKA Curren$y is an artist whose consistency is tried and trusted, leaving a few months between each mixtape, usually less than ten tracks long; His recent solo endeavours aren’t filled with the more familiar faces found on his studio albums. The bouncy instrumentals on summer release Cathedral come solely from Chase N. Cashe, more Harry Fraud than the Cardo sleepy keys he usually coasts over. It’s difficult to pick a standout over its twenty-five minutes or so, but we’ve definitely fallen for that vocal loop in bonus track “TY”. No filler.
Dave Huismans AKA A Made Up Sound returns to the Clone Basement Series with Archive III, a set of tracks that further establishes his gritty yet hyper-polished approach. Deceptively simple with an enveloping groove, the opening track “Cheater VIP” has its moments of furtive self-reflection, winding deep inside itself before returning to its opening stabs. The not-quite-aptly named “Funkstation” has an obtuse quality separating it from the others; Eery notes creep up from under the surface, at times threatening to overtake its pointed rhythm. “Us” is unhindered and flowing, with expressive voices floating in and out amongst a glistening static. Lastly, “Them” is a percussive storm of rolling timpani and showering cymbals, which comes to a crashing finale only to leave a simmering moment of clarity in its wake. Archive III exemplifies Huismans’ ability to contrast the murk of contemporary experimental techno with the hi-fi demands of modern club enthusiasts, creating a style that does not conform to the standards set by either.
Following up her 2014 EP No Romance, Tirzah’s latest single “Make It Up” is one of those summer haze tracks played on repeat. Joining forces once again with school friend Mica Levi, the production is woozy and a little moodier than 2013’s “I’m Not Dancing”. Tonally and lyrically, this single is as on point as previous EPs, showing that the girls understand how to strip back a track and seamlessly combine it with vocal riffs. Out on Greco-Roman – the label behind certain Disclosure, Joe Goddard, Dro Carey and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs releases – the single is one that pretty much sums up this year’s British summer: brooding, vibe-full and humid.
Aurora Halal is perhaps best known for her involvement in Sustain-Release – the New York-based festival that recently took place for the second time to great acclaim – but she’s also a superb producer of crisp, heartfelt techno. Her Shapeshifter EP, the second release on her own Mutual Dreaming label, shares a nightmarish vision of dank, liquid vibes. The title track is built of an incessant, simple melody, embellished throughout with twinkling synth darts and hushed, echoing vocals. These vocals continue across the release, most notably on “Death of Real”, with its extra-terrestrial melodies, unsettling tones that springboard through octaves. “Sunlight” features acid gurgles and a lighter feel, while 12″ closer “Just Tell Me” is a mournful techno lullaby. Digital purchasers gain an extra version of “Death of Real”: it’s harsher, simpler, more focused. It lacks those unsettling arpeggios, but modulated cymbals and rattling percussion more than make up for them.
Mexican club collective N.A.A.F.I. have been throwing parties since the turn of the decade, but things have gone into overdrive this year, climaxing with a cosign from the unlikeliest of sources: Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio. Crew member Smurphy’s beautiful Leaving Records album >A Shapeless Pool… has been on repeat since release, but for summer soundtracking the focus has to be on N.A.A.F.I’s second bootleg compilation Pirata 2. The compilation features the whole collective on rude form, as well as refixes from fellow travellers like Staycore label head Dinamarca and London’s Traxmatik. All manner of source material – old Dizzee instrumentals, Nicki Minaj bangers and Mexican popstars Belanova – is cheekily transformed into bubbling reggaeton and percussive heaters that bang hard in the sun. Considering the diversity of the original tracks, it’s a testament to the crew’s vision that everything hangs together so tightly. Highlights include the two Tinashe appearances, Lao turning out the best Moloko remix since Herbert did it in ’98 and Imaabs repurposing Ciara’s EDM-baiting “Overdose” into an epic blend of clanging metal and soaring synth pads. The whole thing is worth your time though, and given that it’s a free download you’ve got no excuse not to take the plunge.
In many ways it would have been more appropriate to include Endian’s “Finish Me” in a Summer’s Best for 2014 than this year’s; Since its untitled debut in Joy Orbison’s stellar Essential Mix last July, “Finish Me” has acquired a near-omnipresent status in clubs and at festivals up and down the country. Such appeal to DJs is not difficult to understand; With a thundering tribal breakbeat bringing serious heft to proceedings, it packs enough punch to do damage to any dancefloor. But here it’s the deft synth work which really gives the track its brilliance, as pads meeti a killer vocal sample to dizzyingly exultant effects from around the halfway point. While we’ll predominantly remember it for soundtracking many an early morning moment over the past fifteen months, its release on secretsundaze in May has meant we’ve rinsed it all summer long.
Teklife-affiliated Brooklyn natives Tripletrain dropped This Is Tripletrain during late summer and the storming six-tracker has barely left rotation since. The duo’s infectious beats bristle with distinct influence from their city – from jazzy, subway busker-esque trumpet and piano loops through to samples of A$AP Ferg namechecking Biggie – whilst deftly exploring footwork’s hallmark rhythms, vocal chops and bassline syncopations. The EP’s peaks come thick and fast; the soulful breeze of “If Not”, the effortless swing and roll of the titular track and “Too Obsessed”, and the high drama of “Puttin In Work”. The crew are in full effect too: Teklife mates Earl, Manny, Taso and Boylan all feature. Don’t bet against Tripletrain making more serious noise in the near future.
Darko Esser’s new alter ego Tripeo might have had most of the fun this summer with a busier touring schedule and a storming Dekmantel set, but one of our low-key favourites of the season goes to an Esser original. Released in May, Esser’s “Juilce” would have almost certainly skipped us by if it hadn’t been a staple in Ellen Allien’s sets over the last couple of months. Combining strong electro-techno elements, the 808 beat is a key part of its strength, sounding incredible on a system. The percussion alone makes it, but the track truly excels in manifesting its melodic elements in anthemic territory. Evolving riffs are coupled with pads to make for a stellar breakdown experience. a.r.t.less have been putting out gold for time, and this only adds to the label’s great discography. Fans of Versalife, Drexciya, Umwelt, and Objekt should be all over this.
Transcendent, shimmering looped melodies, fired gun kickbacks, sci-fi laser zaps, crickets and Lil Jon’s brazen catchphrases find harmony over hefty, tribal drums, whilst vocal samples blueshift as they’re beamed down from the ether; “Axacan” on paper reads as an incomprehensible, unworkable mess, though Elysia Crampton excels at placing listeners in the eye of her storms. Whereas her dizzying, stirring collages as E+E felt like juxtapositions angularly locked into place, American Drift presents her ideas as intersections. Composed and considered, the record is part of Crampton’s Shenandoah Series, an examination of “brownness on a geological level”. Sonically, it certainly explores identity, cultural pollination and Virginia’s colonial past against a backdrop of shuddering, seismic continental shifts: American Drift. As listeners, it’s easy to become jaded by the dazzling and paralysing information flows brought by a colonially inflicted, globalised and digitally connected world, so much so that we see ourselves in any eclectic concoction. Whilst serving as Crampton’s own investigation, American Drift further strikes as a stark reminder to avoid projecting our own narratives onto others, and to recognise our own agencies. It’s also one of the most visceral, vibrant, and truly breathtaking works 2015 has given us.
Words by Koyejo Oloko, Antoin Lindsay, Stephanie Neptune, Matt Coombs, Akash Chohan, Taylor Trostle, Jess Melia, Aidan Hanratty, Simon Docherty, Matt Gibney, Oli Grant, Riccardo Villella and Tayyab Amin.
Today’s Truancy Volume comes from our favourites AKA the boys behind Bicep. We first heard of Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar a few years ago through their very own blog Feel My Bicep, and they have been two of our top selectors ever since. Seeing the London-via-Belfast duo establish themselves as some of the most captivating DJs and producers around has been a joy to witness – the likes of “Silk” (‘11), Satisfy (‘13) and Circles (‘14) still being as popular as ever round Truants’ way. Their recent schedule also speaks volumes about their current thrive and popularity among listeners across the board, comfortably delving between house, techno and disco whilst also having plenty of time for Bollywood soundtracks, atmospheric drum and bass and new age ambient music in their downtime. Following a limited 12” for their XOYO residency and their Just EP on Aus Music, they’ve just released the mighty Dahlia EP in collaboration with fellow producer and long-time friend Hammer. Gerd Janson also recently enlisted them to contribute to his Musik For Autobahns 2 compilation, with their sublime track entitled “Carmine” and you can also look out for a track called “Closing Sequence” forthcoming on 50 Weapons as part of the label’s final run of releases.
Having carved up such a reputation for themselves, it was no wonder Bicep were asked to lead a residency at London’s XOYO over this year’s summer period: they just finished their 13-week workout last Saturday, which consisted of a strong curated roster including the likes of Derrick May, The Black Madonna, Palms Trax and Space Dimension Controller. The two have an equally crazy agenda coming up: from their next Feel My Bicep night at Amsterdam Dance Event featuring the likes of Midland, Optimo and Sandrien as well as their next Australia/NZ tour.
The pair has unquestionably been responsible for some of our fondest music-related memories over the years: from sunny afternoons at Dekmantel and ZeeZout, to getting caught by surprise by means of their Dominica edit at other festivals. Their final instalment at XOYO was also one for the books – going from “Just” to Art Crime and Devilfish in proper confetti-canon style fashion. Featuring recent tracks from Mikael Seifu and Dawit Eklund to 2000 era house from Joshua Iz, we’re thrilled to share Bicep’s mix for Truants with you. Equally as uplifting as it is danceable, it is more importantly 100% Bicep vibes. We also spoke to Andy and Matt about their creative processes on both a musical and visual level, what music from beyond the dancefloor they’re currently loving, and their upcoming album.
Your Dahlia EP is out now – it’s absolutely incredible. This is your third time working with Hammer – could you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Rory (we understand you go as far back as 2009 to nights at the Admiral) and the collaborative process of the release in general?
The relationship with Hammer goes back to school, we have both known Rory since we were 5/6 years old. He is based up in Glasgow and we have been playing together since we all parted ways for university. The nights actually go back even further to Hetherington Research Club, where Rory organised parties in a postgraduate research club for 80 people. It quickly outgrew that place and moved to The Admiral and now to Sub Club.
Rory is still based up there but will take occasional trips to London. In the studio we generally we will each take a piece of equipment we want to use and just start to jam live. There is not really a set process, we kind of make something and move on if we find it doesn’t work after a while. Which is why we already have a stack of tracks that are pretty much finished but probably wont see the light of day. We try and rotate working on maybe three or five tunes a day and repeat that for a solid week.
We were wondering how the FMB005 video came about. We read it was sourced from old VHS tapes – did you produce it yourself, and what about your earlier teasers/videos such as “Day 3“, “LYK LYK” and the FMB Records teaser?
In the past we have opted for sampling video and combining it into something of our own putting a new spin on the footage. The latest video is a collection of videos we found ourselves and worked together with Billy and Joe (http://bbjw.co.uk/) who essentially edited it and added effects. For the previous videos we worked with a guy called Stijn who also runs the amazing Holger parties in Brussels. It’s always been a collaborative effort and it’s great to keep working with different people to get a new twist.
One of the factors that we feel makes Bicep stand out so much as an overall brand to us are things like the logo, your videos, the imagery on your website, merchandise and your general design/aesthetic consistency. It’s funny how much the spinning Bicep logo from Razzmatazz sticks out in our memory too. How involved are each of you in the design and visuals surrounding Bicep?
(Matt) Yea, we do nearly all of it ourselves. The great thing is that we can slowly update and change things and try out new ideas that we probably wouldn’t get away with if we were doing it for someone else. I was a graphic designer previously and Andy has always have a strong interest in design. The logo, posters, blog design, record sleeves, our photography Tumblr (http://feelmybicep.tumblr.com) etc. is all done by us. It’s fun and we can kind of be silly and not take it too seriously. We also originally did all our t-shirts ourselves but have recently began to collaborate on some of them with illustrators to get a fresh feel. It’s also great to come up with an idea and pass it on to someone and see what they come back with.
(Andy) Yea, I have always been interested in design and branding from a young age. I did engineering at university, but throughout was doing design things on the side. When I left uni I worked in various magazines and then at a few advertising agencies where I developed on what I already knew.
Feel My Bicep was one of our main inspirations for setting up this site a few years ago, so it is crazy for us to have you in the mix. Do you remember where you were when you posted your early posts? How would you describe the progression of the website, and what are some of your favourite posts or memories related to the running of the site?
(Andy) I had been down in London nearly a year or so, working in a shitty job and not really djing much. I used to go out to nights at the likes of T-Bar, the End and Visions in Dalston, which was kind of the only thing there at this stage. Disco and Edits scene was pretty big then so would generally listen to this kind of stuff mixed with more techno Perlon-esque sort of things. Gradually then developed a more intense love for Italo disco through nights like Spangles and Disco Bloodbath which is probably documented well through the blog.
(Matt) I was at university in Newcastle. The place at the time really sucked for underground music (although it’s great now), so the blog was my outlet and kept me feeling involved in the music I loved. A big inspiration for me were trips to Optimo on Sunday nights up in Glasgow. I had a lot of friends living there so regularly went up to Scotland to get my hit of decent music. They always played so eclectically, mixing Italo with punk and techno, it was always a very eccentric mix and the crowd were amazing every time. It was definitely a very strong inspiration for me. The blog kind of became addictive, we weren’t really producing seriously at that time and it was the main focus for the first year or two. I remember some days posting up to 13 tracks in a day, the endless searching for imagery as well made it equally exciting as the blog wasn’t only an audio “scrap book” but also a visual one.
How would you describe the difference between the music you play out and the music you listen to in your down time? What have you been feeling lately?
(Andy) Would listen to a lot of similar music via mixes when going to gym but generally listen to less club focused music in downtime. I have been getting really into old atmospheric drum and bass again, within that there is quite a specific sound I like but it would best be described by LTJ Bukem and his Logical Progression CDs. Just digging deeper into those artists and old mixtapes from the ’90s, buying random white labels etc. Other than that, I have been digging into the ‘Electronical Soul‘ Scene, I don’t know if that is the official name but it’s the name of the compilation that got me into it. It’s an amazing mix of old drum machines and soulful live music in a completely different way than we know it, this compilation is a great entry point. Also have been digging lots of what I call proper ‘deep’ house, mainly from Japan – Ian O’Brian and Shinichiro Yokota espicially.
(Matt) I’ve been really into some new age ambient stuff recently, it comes hand in hand with getting our modular stuff, so stuff along the lines of Redshift and Arc (Mark Shreeve). Amazing huge big 12 minute live jams but very musical at the same time. They fit so well as interludes in tougher techno sets as well! I’ve also been listening to quite a lot of world music. Bollywood soundtracks, African field recordings, Japanese drumming and even some early ’80s Celtic stuff. I think recently I’ve wanted to really massively broaden my palette beyond the whole disco-house-techno world, it’s easy to become uninspired when everything you listen to fits the same 4×4 formula. I’ve also found some UK grime stuff I appreciate. Basically, I don’t listen to too much dance music apart from set “digging days” – We generally take time in each city to hit the local record stores and try and do a few hours there. Also have a few secret gem spots in London which have amazing bargain bins.
In your interview with Little White Earbuds in 2014 you were speaking about how in your early production phases there wasn’t much emphasis on EQing drums, whereas by 2014 that amount had gone up tenfold. Do you think there’s limitations in both scenarios? Also, seeing as we’re now in 2015, we are keen to know what you guys have learnt on the production side over the last year?
We are always learning new things in the studio, as we spend nearly every day we aren’t travelling in there. Over the last year we have been getting into the whole modular side of the hardware end. It was definitely the boost we needed as it’s really opened things up for us.
There is quite a lot to get your head around but definitely makes you learn and expand your knowledge on making sounds. The modular world is like an endless rabbit hole of ideas and possibilities due to the fact to can totally re-think the chain of modulars every time you sit down. Sometimes we only use it quite subtly, maybe only for effects, sending a normal synth through a eurorack filter with external triggers. Once you get your head around sending and using triggers from drum machines and how much you can really expand upon one melody in terms of movement (Variable controlled filters, triggering reverb size with the Erbe Verb etc.) it really become a never-ending source of inspiration.
You recently posted Orbital’s “Belfast” to Facebook and one of the comments said “[it] figuratively has your name all over it” which felt exactly right. We’ve found that you aren’t scared to get overtly melodic in your sets and productions – tracks like EOD’s “Phontron (030303 Mix)“, “Just“, “Carmine” and Noo’s “Heaven’s Gate” (from your Truants mix) come to mind. What do you think has contributed to this?
I think just our fairly broad tastes and appreciation of stuff outside dance music has always installed a real want to create stuff that’s quite “full” – not just “beats”, although we really enjoy making techno as well. I suppose we’ve always both had a very strong love for Italo disco as well, which is very melody heavy – that would be a real influence for us (even if it’s not directly noticeable).
You’ve hinted at a Bicep album being in the works which is incredibly exciting. Is there anything you can tell us about this at all? Do you have a concept in mind, and are you going through with the idea of recording it in Scandinavia as you mentioned in the past?
We are starting to consciously work on an album now, so actually setting time aside and starting on some sketches etc. At the moment it’s really in its early stages, we plan to just experiment in the studio as much as we can to get to a point to where we are happy. In the future doing an album in Scandinavia locked away in the countryside with a definite concept in mind will probably happen, but we are not quite there at the moment. I think we want to do a fairly rounded album to start off and maybe get more conceptual down the line, heavily restricting what equipment we use and how long we spend on it.
When was the last time you danced?
That’s another great thing at XOYO, booking friends and good DJs means a lot of our time is spent on the dancefloor, every week we have something to dance about!
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 30 September 2015. 1 comment
Functions Of The Now is a mix series charting modern developments at the innovative edges of dance music. Originally conceived in 2013 to shine a light on the once-again fertile grime production scene and its influence, the remit of the series quickly widened to incorporate all manner of interesting manipulations of existing club modes. Whether it’s Air Max 97’s “oblique club trax”, M.E.S.H.’s gaseous abstractions or DJ NJ Drone’s hyperkinetic take on Jersey Club it all has a home in Functions Of The Now. We hope to draw connections between these often disparate forms.
After catching up with E.M.M.A. in the last edition of Functions Of The Now we stay in London to meet someone who’s had an immeasurable impact on its club scene: Trax Couture label boss Rushmore. Having started out running illegal parties in East London basements at the turn of the decade, in 2012 Rushmore and co-conspirator Fools decided it was time to go legit and create House Of Trax. With the goal of creating a space specifically for dancers whilst shining a light on the OG innovators of localised US scenes, the stage was set for what has become one of London’s most essential parties. Drawing connections between legendary Dance Mania DJs, ballroom house, footwork and grime, the music policy has been as freewheeling as it is energetic, with a common thread of rhythmic adventurousness at its core. Unlike many nights tapping into these club modes, the artists at the core of these scenes are always front and centre, with previous guests including Paul Johnson, Tyree Cooper, Rapid, Spooky, Slimzee, MikeQ, Venus X, Uniiqu3 and DJ Taye. Alongside this, House Of Trax have been vital in pushing younger artists operating at the peripheries with Truants faves like Air Max 97′, Moleskin and Grovestreet all making appearances.
It wasn’t long before HOT branched out further. A fateful trip to Miami inspired Rushmore to start making music, and once his tracks were up to scratch the music and clothing label Trax Couture was born to house his productions and satisfy his parallel interest in fashion. A couple of years in and the label has really kicked into gear. Having been sent a wealth of creative club tracks from a globally dispersed set of likeminded producers, Trax Couture started World Series, a 12 part series that’s connected UK happenings to France, Australia, the US, Canada and Chile thus far. The series is essential listening for anybody interested in steely and adventurous percussion tracks, with Air Max 97′, Imaabs and C++ providing particular highlights.
It’s the latest release that has really taken things to another level, however, and it’s almost a shame it’s coming to end when things have gotten this interesting. Today sees the release of Malaysian producer Moslem Priest’s World Series Vol 11 and it’s a truly striking piece of work. Fans of 2010 Hessle Audio/Hemlock will be at home with it’s rhythmic ingenuity, but that template is updated for a 2015 audience. Intricate, polyrhythmic percussion is married to club ready toughness with results that perfectly split the difference between functionality and creativity. You haven’t heard anything like EP highlight The Wall, which to our ears sounds like Shackleton cutting short the 10 minute exploratory headtrips and going straight for the jugular.
Rushmore’s production work is also hitting a purple patch, with an EP of potent, midi-horn house jams out on the famous Nervous Records today, and the forthcoming World Series Vol 12 borrowing some of Wizzbit and Davinche’s ’03-’05 magic to deliver a minimalistic take on that classic era of grime. He’s clearly a busy man so we were psyched he took some time out to record FOTN XVI for us: this series can get pretty abstract sometimes but Rushmore has come through with a set of raw ‘n’ rugged drum tracks that would burn up any dancefloor. For the uninitiated it’s a window into the raucous world of House Of Trax.
As usual we have some recommendations before we get into the interview. First up is Finn’s triumphant return for Local Action, following last year’s inescapable set of earworms Keep Calling. The Knock Knock EP is cut from the same RnB-sampling cloth, with results not entirely dissimilar to those of Kromestar’s legendary grime alias Iron Soul, but Finn’s melodic sensibilities are a cut above the imitators that have sprung up in the last couple of years. Local Action continue to do hero’s work connecting producers in the adjacent instrumental grime scene to up-and-coming MCs with Faultz coming through to vocal “Iya”, though the real highlight is the emotional “BB”, a comfort blanket set-closer that will have even the ‘ardest weeping on the dancefloor.
Elsewhere Organ Tapes reaches a higher plane with his Word Life mixtape for Tobago Tracks. Previously the label output of TT has been overshadowed by their excellent mix series (check out Ma Nguzu, Why Be and Malin’s contributions if you haven’t already) but on Word Life a balance is struck. Sitting somewhere between James Ferraro’s post Far Side Virtual output and the Endless/Bala Club axis (Endgame, Lexxi, Kamixlo and co), Organ Tapes debut is a gorgeous, uncanny valley take on dancehall and afrobeat. Written between Shanghai and London, a sense of rootlessness is conveyed through the drifting autotuned vocals. The mixtape is far from aimless though, with lush, R Plus 7 style synths and a solid rhythmic backbone keeping everything on course: a truly special statement of intent from a producer that is definitely worth watching out for.
We caught up with Rushmore to talk House Of Trax/Trax Couture: past, present and future.
Let’s talk origin stories: how did House Of Trax come to be? “It began real with the party me and Ben [Fools] used to run before HOT called Rhythm Talk. This was 2010 and HOT started in 2012. Rhythm Talk was a free entry, illegal party in Dalston/Clapton basements with all our DJ mates playing under aliases, smoking inside etc. I used to go hunting on the street for empty basements and then offering money to the owners. Do you know Ali Baba’s in Dalston? The kebab shop next to Nando’s? We did the third party in their basement. We’d rock up with a massive system on the night. We provided everything: sound, doorstaff, the bar. It’s funny looking back on it to be honest.” So who was playing at those parties? “Bok Bok played the first party – all the Slugs guys used to play – Doc Daneeka, Throwing Snow, Ikonika, Delroy Edwards just as he came through, Spinn and Rashad played our second birthday. We basically knew Rhythm Talk wouldn’t go on forever so we needed to start something new. Dalton basements were getting snapped up and we always wanted to do it somewhere new each party. As stuff gained momentum it was like “Oh actually this could build into something – let’s make it a more viable model”. We never compromised anything for Rhythm Talk so to just take it to a normal venue wouldn’t have been right. Hence a new format, name and concept.”
So what was the initial concept for House Of Trax? “We wanted a club night for dancers with an open inspiration that came from an obsession with The New Dance Show from Detroit and a big focus on US music. What I take from The New Dance Show is that it was a pioneering programme that played all the new club music and had sick dancers dressed to the nines. I suppose it’s a similar agenda to other club nights but that was the muse. We held quite a few dance contests and tried streaming the first few to actually try give a programme experience but we couldn’t really get the streaming bit right and I’m not sure if it’s the right idea to stream from the club.” Yeah it can be quite unnerving to know you’re being filmed in a club. “Yeah, especially if you’re off your nut, or just want that privacy. We started in a basement up in Stoke Newington, then ran the party for about 1.5-2 years in Birthdays when it first opened. Now we’re doing it regularly at Bar A Bar.”
You’ve had fairly diverse programming but to me it all fits together in its own way. What do you see connecting the artists you book? “Yeah we’ve been quite broad, but still fitting together. It’s just the raw vibe to the music from everybody really, and the energy. I also feel like everyone we’ve booked have been pushing the envelope or are icons in their game.” That’s one thing I’ve always liked about your parties: you always put on the original innovators from those scenes. I think that’s important when you’re working with localised and/or marginalised scenes. “Yeah for sure! I mean for us it was never an idea not to book those cats. I think those were other motives: it just didn’t have a stage and some people just weren’t playing over here. It was all done with a can-do attitude: hitting people up direct, flying people over just for us (which was pretty ridiculous) and working with people to try to create a few dates for it to pay off. It’s cool now though, because all those DJs are touring regularly and are more available as it’s grown. I feel very privileged that I have an open dialogue with some of the artists we’ve booked now.”
So when did the transition from party to label begin? “2013, so one year in really. I started making music around end of 2010/start of 2011 and once I was happy with my output I was like let’s get it out. It was an amazing four nights in Miami which gave me the push to start making music actually. I was out at the Winter Music Conference with James [L-Vis 1990]. He played a bunch of parties and we stayed at the Mad Decent apartment. There were pool parties with Annie Mac, Erol Alkan, Ed Banger crew, Van Helden, Lil Jon: it was another world. Being around lots of producers and similar minded people inspired me, and it was an extension to the life I had already followed for so many years; promoting, DJing etc.”
You shifted focus from yourself as you went into World Series though: how did that come about? “I started collecting all this dope music to play in sets and began dialogues with all these people and I knew it was time to shine the light, you know? Act like a label should do, with a proper roster and schedule.” So was the “world” theme incidental to the fact you’d been sent all of this music? “Yeah the name came after I sat and looked at all the music I was playing. I thought “Fuck, there’s a wide global spread of really sick producers”. Then it was obvious what it had to be: World Series. That’s coming to an end now though.” Now that it’s in full flight is there no hunger to keep it going? There’s a lot of world out there still! Were there any international scenes/locations you wished you’d included with hindsight? “I’ve thought about whether I should keep it running, but I think it’s best left as intended. It was a statement of intent as a label: to hold down this schedule and introduce all these relatively unheard producers. I did want to tap into Asia more, especially Tokyo. That can still happen though, just not under the world series banner.”
Let’s talk about the mix you made for us. I’ve been following the 100bpm mixes you’ve made but this feels far less conceptual. What was the thinking behind it? “This mix is much closer to a DJ set vibe, lots of new exclusive tracks from myself and forthcoming artists on Trax Couture. Also some linked artists connected to the World Series. Really new-new from mine and the label’s perspective. Wanted you to get the freshed scoop! I hope people vibe off it.”
What’s next for you and House Of Trax? “So October 23rd we’ve got Imaabs over from Chile. He did World Series Vol. 2 and he’s linked with the N.A.A.F.I guys. So that’s a nice step forward for them, him and us – everyone winning haha! Then 19th December at Bar A Bar we have H.O.T XMAS ‘WERKS DO’ – a work do for DJs and promoters basically, 6am license – it’s going to be a messy one. We’ve got our 4th birthday in January so plotting for that now too. The Trax Couture AW15 line is dropping soon and a few more EPs coming from myself and Evil Streets before the year ends.”
Sounds great! Any shout outs before we go? “Props to the whole Trax Couture team worldwide, all the listeners, dancers: Stay Fly, Make Noise!”
Rushmore – If you there
Rushmore – A-N-E
Jikuroux – ;_
Air Max ’97 – Expennditure
Rushmore – Zippa Trak
Ryan Wick – Let her ride
Dreams – Energy
Rushmore – Feel Real
TSVI – Drag Queen
Rushmore – Works Wonders
Lorenzo & Mina- Tombura
Rushmore – Elevator
NKC – Salon Room
Unknown – Unknown
Air Max ’97 – Passage
Ryan Wick – Stick Talk
Akito – Resolutions per visit
Youngstar – Calypso Blow [L-vis edit]
Evil Streets – Flips
Pass the 40 – If
Dance System – Turbulence
Fearz – Dipset
Cirqa – Breathe
GROVESTREET – Cunt horror redux
Moslem Priest – The wall
Imaabs – El Cuerpo remix
Father – Wrist [Taye&Paypal mix]
Paypal x Stevie Whisper – Ancient Techno production
Taye & Earl – XTCC
Beek – You Don’t know remix
Artwork: Joe Jackson
Time management may well be a particular skill that London-based Dan Beaumont has successfully grasped and mastered over the years. As well as being the mind behind setting up clubs Dance Tunnel and Dalston Superstore – two of East’s most ventured nightclubs – he’s found time in the last year to focus on Chapter 10, a night he runs with Charlie Porter and Morgan Clements. If past experiences are anything to go by, we highly recommend bookmarking October’s event if you want a chance at seeing Fiedel, Mike Servito, Lakuti and Jacob Meehan run the speakers at Corsica. Dan Beaumont and Charlie Porter will also be on resident duties, which means a possibility of hearing some of Dan’s own No Fit State and Work Them Records productions.
Released back in July in time for the summer festival season, the latter saw Dan Beaumont lay down a fluid drum pattern over Patti LaBelle’s glorious vocals from ‘The Spirit’s In It’. With Spencer Parker wanting to put it out on Work Them, you can imagine the sort of club friendly track we’re dealing with. Fast-forward a couple of months and we’re getting the Spirit Dubbin remix package, featuring a stripped-down “Workdub” from Parker and two other interpretations from J-Dubs (Jamie Fry) and Patrik Sjeren. Having recently made a production comeback of sorts after a lengthy hiatus, seeing Sjeren’s name on any record at the moment automatically piques interest, so we jumped at the opportunity to be premiering the remix in its entirety. Here he drops the vocals completely, focusing and drawing out that subtle chord from the original and adding his own atmospheric take with the drums and claps.
Words by Riccardo Villella, 22 September 2015. Leave a comment
To many, classical and club music inhabit completely different worlds. For Jack Sheen, however, he brings influences from both in his own work. A recent transplant to London from Manchester, Jack is a classically-trained composer and conductor who has worked alongside the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra among others, as well as currently running a successful concert series ‘ddmmyy’ with Tom Rose from Slip Discs. What distinguishes Jack is the breadth of his influences, however, with a keen interest in jazz and techno in particular. His most recent work, the Jupiter O.S.T. EP, was originally created as a soundtrack for George Haydock’s film Jupiter and in turn made into a more coherent release. Percussive by nature, the release channels Sun Ra, Steve Reich and Iannis Xenakis as well as conscious nods to the intensity and density of the likes of Mark Fell and Russell Haswell. These influences have been put together in a mix by Jack for Generic Greeting collective which paints a picture of who and what inspired him for the record both directly and indirectly. We’re incredibly pleased to premiere ‘Jupiter/Saturn’ from the EP and Jack kindly spoke to us about his musical background, ddmmyy and, of course, the EP.
Let’s talk about your general musical background then, tell me a bit about it and how it brought you to this record.
“Well I always, always wanted to be a musician since I was probably, like, one. And I basically associated that with whatever I was listening at the time. When I was five and listening to my dad’s 80s pop records, I basically just wanted to be an 80s pop star. I got into experimental music as a teenager. Initially I wanted to be a producer for bands, I was really into Dave Sitek and Radiohead and Battles. Then I started listening to classical music, I was listening to lots of jazz and playing a lot of improv stuff when I heard Steve Reich and some early Stravinsky ballets and decided that I really needed to read and write music, and wanted to compose and conduct. I kind of dropped the electronic stuff for a while, I was still listening but I was focussing on other stuff. Then when I got back into it when I was at music college I learned how to use Logic and I think this record is a pretty fair reflection of those things. Not necessarily what I was listening to at the time but what I was thinking about, so lots of the kind of chaotic improvised music. Lots of things that are kind of slow and static. I really like minimal music but my music is kind of a lot more dense and intricate. I really love sparse music but I just can’t make it [laughs]. [The record] is so piled on, so there’ll be one idea but it’ll be articulated by three or four things at once… it’s really layered. So I don’t really know how much that reflects on the record.
Whenever I was listening to the mix, one thing that stood out for me in particular as an influence was the Iannis Xenakis track, in terms of the rhythms you’ve used.
“Yeah [Xenakis] said this really amazing thing about music where it’s like “The sensual shock must be just as forceful as when one hears a clap of thunder or looks into a bottomless abyss” and I remember reading that when I was like 16 and that stuff just stays with you. Even though a lot of my music now is conceptually driven, I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. The track on the mix is so layered and dense and, yeah, I think that’s a pretty good example of what I went for in the EP. The next track is a string quartet piece by Ligeti, which has been a really big influence on me. It’s made up of all these static sounds, he calls it micropolyphony, where you’ve just got all these sounds bubbling along at such a rate so you can’t really distinguish between them, it just becomes a meta thing. Like listening to crickets, it just become a drone even though it’s made up of individual things with their own distinct rhythm and that’s the kind of approach I go for in a lot of my music, not just this release. I guess on Logic it’s kind of easy just to pile shit on top of each other, and that’s what I ended up doing [laughs]”
So you created this release for a particular purpose, which was to soundtrack the film ‘Jupiter’, so how did you go about that? Did you bounce the ideas off the director?
“It must have been over a year ago and George [Haydock, Jupiter director] told me about this film and it sounded really good. George is a huge Sun Ra fan, and he knew the film that would be constructed around the structure of the planets and he wanted the soundtrack to be all percussion. So I sort of walked into this amazing limitation. It was really good to have a director who is really musical, and makes music. I was always hesitant to make film stuff because I always find that people who makes films don’t really know a lot about music, in my experience, particularly in Hollywood but obviously that’s a bit irrelevant with me [laughs]. George gave me a lot of freedom, so he’d send me six or seven edits of the film and I’d make them to that over the few weeks it took me to write the music. There was only a couple of times where he’d send stuff back and say like “I think for this scene it needs to be a bit warmer” or whatever. There was a little bit of back and forth. And with the EP I just had these cuts of the track and I decided I wanted to make something coherent out of that.”
It was interesting that percussion was used because to my mind for a lot of spacey-themed films they tend to soundtrack it with synth music…
“Well the starting point was just Sun Ra. I think Sun Ra is an amazing human being. His relationship with his notion of intergalactic life is awesome, in the truest sense of the word. It made a lot of sense for me and George. A lot of people say this but when you’re limited, you’re at your most created. I had to forgo a lot of what I take for granted to make it work. It is an electronic piece of music, its very processed even though it’s percussive. Lots of distortion.”
So through that do you think it’s influenced by techno?
“Well my music is influenced by techno because its quite repetitive and static and about texture. That’s why I love going to clubnights from the start to the end, because I love getting that sense of architecture, so in that sense it’s been influenced by techno. The sounds themselves are influenced in particular by like, Pete Swanson, or 1991’s techno stuff on Opal Tapes. Just stuff where the beats are played really hard and just really noisy. But I never push the influences too far. I take influences from extreme ends of the spectrum but never go that far myself, so I’ll offer an insight into them without actually going that hardcore myself. “
So space is something that’s influenced electronic music since it’s existence, what do you think it is about it that influences musicians?
“Well for me it was the film and the structure of the planets, I didn’t sit in my room and have a revelation about the planet Mars or anything [laughs]. But yeah, space is in music, physical space. Space between sounds, a lot of in it in minimal music and not a lot in dense music. The notion of space is so important in music and anything that stimulates people’s concepts of that is really good and that’s why certain musicians get tied to whether its a city or countryside they live in.”
You put a Rhythm & Sound track in the mix and I always feel their sense of space is incredible.
“Yeah! It’s amazing, it blows my mind. It’s so intricate and their use of reverb is perfect.”
So you’re moving to London quite soon so we may as well talk about your ddmmyy series that you’ve been doing for the past while. How did it come about?
“It started in 2012 and then the original group of people who did it all went off and did other stuff but I pushed it on a bit and it’s blossomed into something I’m really proud of. Every series of the series has been a bit of a step up and I plan on keeping that up in London. We try and pack out smaller spaces instead of like, concert halls. That’s why the shows in [Manchester bar] Sandbar were so good. It’s not perfect sound-wise but the vibe is amazing. For the first gig we had Otto Willberg playing over a PA and it was so sweaty, it was almost like a gig. We’ve had Laurie Tompkins too. He’s got two tapes coming out on Slip Discs which should be wicked. ddmmyy is about contextualising things, and finding new ways to offer a new perspective on them. It’s impossible experience music in a vacuum…”
There’s always context.
“Yeah, whether its a clubnight, or an art gallery or whatever, to control that in an interesting way is really important nowadays because there’s just so much stuff. If you can really put things together that contextualise one another way.”
My own experience is mostly in club music, and my favourite DJs are always ones who make me think about music in ways I’ve never thought about before.
“Same for me really. A few years ago people started playing that Lumidee track ‘Never Leave You’ loads and the track is no different, but it was played in ways that gave it a new dimension. I was reading a Ben UFO interview where he said he often thinks five tracks in advance and it’s about getting to that track that creates the architecture of his set. Think that’s really interesting, how you contextualise. How do you get from F to R?”
Order Jack Sheen’s Jupiter O.S.T. from Bandcamp here.
Words by Antoin Lindsay, 21 September 2015. Leave a comment