Subatomic ‘s latest shot across the horizon sees multi-instrumentalist Micko Roche tease the airwaves with perfect harmonies and beyond. And what’s particularly wonderful here is the diverse nature of the sounds as the play fast and sometimes loose with identities and atmospheres. From the low-slung kick drums that drive the delicious opening title track forward to the liquid funk of the proceeding Slow Train the album proves to be much more than just the sum of its parts. Listening to this feels like a celebration of life, albeit without the darker moments, but by absorbing all of those gorgeously breathy vocals will prove to be as good a lesson in existence as any. Numbers like Coumshingaum then simply surpass themselves with the kind of excessively blissful guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on Crosby, Stills and Nash’s debut album, and from me that’s a compliment. The wash of stereo eventually finds its logical conclusion with the suitably pulsating beats plus harmonious words of The Sea, though not before Afterlife performs magic upon both Baltimore and Slow Train on two bonus versions. Choice.
Yes, this is a bit special. All your favourite numbers crafted via the hands of Steve Miller’s timely Afterlife reworked, or reimagined, by a rather sparkling array of stars. Of course, I’ll avoid using the word blissful in the course of this conversation, most definitely sublime, although I will have to indulge in Balearic – just for old time’s sake. The Coyote remix of Es Palmador begins proceedings beautifully, followed neatly by FSQ’s good-time funky version How Does It Feel which sounds like a band playing right before your eyes – happy days. And so the lush vibes continue with various other standouts coming from Robot 89’s interpretation of Ozo, Steve Cobby’s sonically charged take on the charming guitar strains of Tonto, plus Chris Coco’s frankly epic Blue Bar which heightens the keyed in cinematic ambience to breaking point. And beyond.
Release: April 14
The original versions…..
Your latest compilation of music (alongside Chris Coco) has just been released: MARINI’S on 57 – Sunset Hours Volume Two Compiled by Chris Coco & Afterlife (Secret Life). Can you tell us how the project originally came about, and how you decide which music is included on a particular mix?
Secret Life called me and Chris and said Modesto Marini had asked if we like to make a compilation for him, we took a look at the restaurant and saw that he was doing something exciting and different. Modesto is a great chef and we wanted to make something to compliment his talent. We decided upon a plan. 1. Interesting new (where possible) edgy downtempo, the sort of thing we would either play or want to hear if we were having dinner there. 2. We both had to absolutely love every single track. 3. Maybe we would make a track that we felt epitomised watching a sunset and eating serious Italian cuisine from 57 floors up in a steel and glass tower in Kuala Lumpur. This last bit was a piece of synchronicity as the next day Modesto asked us if we fancied making a track called Sunset Hours. We said “all right”.
One of the standouts on the new ‘Balearic’ album is your edit of Micko Roche ‘Baltimore’. Can you tell us about the process of producing the version for the album?
Micko is signed to my label Subatomic UK and I had produced the original version which, halfway through, kicks in with some stunning electric guitar work which works well but takes the track to a different level to what Jim at Balearic was feeling, he really loved it but asked for a more acoustic edit and when I saw the track list I understood what he was looking for so it was easy as I still had more of the original acoustic guitar files which worked very well and kept the track organic.
You recently posted the question, ‘what really concerns me is the question: is there an underground anymore?’ What do you think the answer is?
Here is a reasonable definition to start the ball rolling. “A genre in music and other forms of media intended for an elite audience, that is often characterised by its high levels of originality and experimentation, and does not conform to typical standards, trends, or hypes as set by the popular mainstream media. The mainstream media has a tendency to steal new ideas from the underground.”
But surely the underground used to be that which was not in the media. These days media is everywhere, difficult to escape. That was why I posed the question. I think that “popular mainstream media” cannot be so easily defined anymore, we can all create our own media if we want to. So at this point, I think Yes and No, and not Yes and also not No. That might sound pretentious but it’s a quantum answer in a quantum world.
Talking a step back. Who originally informed your taste in music, and what for you are the most important attributes in its composition?
The originator was a friend called Erskine Thompson who signed this record http://manudibango.ru/a86.html check out the personnel and all will be revealed.
For me music must have the following:- groove, story, feeling, in no particular order.
What are your views on House Music currently with the trend for early the 90’s and even a return to the Acid sounds of the late 80’s – is it at risk of becoming the musical equivalent of Northern Soul?
I think it’s cool, it can only lead on to new mutations of something good to start with. EDM was just someone getting House music totally wrong and exploiting it. When people hear real House music made with the heart and soul some of them realise what they have been missing. This then leads them on to real Downtempo – it has to be called something these days to even figure – there’s no difference really, where does House tempo begin and Downtempo end? People are opening up. No, it’s definitely not going down a Northern Soul route. That was a dead end.
Can you talk us through how you re-imagined the House rhythms of The Shapeshifters ‘It’s You’ and transformed them into your and Pete Gooding’s No Logo Sunset Mix for Defected?
I put the vocals up in solo. I really liked the sound of the stems, I think probably the only stems I have never attempted to improve sonically. Then I started hitting different pads to get a groove that worked with the vocals. Pete and I thought it would be nice to make a mix that could work at sunset at Mambo; starts super chilled and builds forever like an old Frankie Knuckles mix and then, if you wanted to, mix it into the original version and take it higher…
Can you tell us about your studio setup and any favourite software/ hardware?
I mix “in the box”. It’s a 64 bit PC 6 x 3.2ghz i7 running UAD quadcore cards with all UAD & Slate Digital Plug ins and some anonymous extras. Cubase Pro 8 & Wavelab 8.5. I worked in big analogue studios a lot so fot me, this software is as close, or closer, as it gets. Rhodes piano and Prophet 600 and Korg Trinity /TLA 5051 valve input stage, vintage strat and precision bass, some exotic percussion, lap steel guitar.
I love my Korg Global Wave drum, no midi. But most of all I love my Mackie HR824 monitors. You can work all day and night with them and they never hurt but they never lie.
Oh and my Neve 1073 EQ, of course.
Where can people get to hear you DJ over the summer? And what are your forthcoming production plans?
On Mixcloud https://www.mixcloud.com/afterlife Unfortunately, or otherwise depending on your point of view, I am one of the 5% of the population who has a very serious reaction to strong pulsed microwaves such as wifi and smartphone frequencies so well and truly grounded. Very fucking tedious actually, so I make a token mix every month whilst in mourning until things change for the better again. It happened for tobacco so I live in hope. People seem to be taking the issue more seriously lately…
Forthcoming productions will include working on the debut album of Fondue, their first single is getting great reactions https://pro.beatport.com/release/absolem/1533670
I AM really excited about my latest production. A debut album by DF Tram from San Francisco called “Illegal Lingo” due for release on 10th July
Your new EP along with Pete Gooding as No Logo is called ‘A Cubic Centimetre of Chance’. What’s the idea behind the title? And can you tell us about how the EP was conceived and brought together?
The new EP charts their creative meetings during the last three years when they have a chance to relax from their busy solo careers hence the EP title taken from the Carlos Castenada book Journey to Ixtlan: “All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimetre of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between an average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting, so that when his cubic centimetre pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick it up.”
Which perfectly describes their approach to collaboration. Pete and I rarely have time to work together as much as we would like to because of other commitments so when we do we regard the time as special and make the most of it. This EP is a perfect example of something being made over a four year period – 6 tracks + 6 times we spent together in the studio that reflect how we felt at each time and sometimes provoked by the vocals of Steve Smith (Dirty Vegas) https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707418365&fref=ts , Ashibah https://www.facebook.com/ashibahmusic?fref=ts and NYC rapper River Nelson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Nelson
And finally. What is your philosophy for life?
Do no harm but take no shit. It’s trickier than it sounds.