The third release from the label I’ve reviewed in as many weeks sparks the reoccuring thought that Visonquest remains an essentially important imprint to the fabric of club culture. Not least of all because they unleash music such as this defiantly futuristic number. Creatures Of Habit are in reality Shaun Reeves, Maher Daniel and Amir Javasoul and the title track they have created asks probing, mind enhancing questions while delivering taught, tense bass amid deliberately electro drums plus an intensely invigorating selection of keys and punctuating sounds. Cumulating at two thirds via a heart-warming rush of emotive pads. Blink, occurs next creating a darker impression as nervy synthesizers wriggle over brutal beats, leaving Out Of Orbit to complete with rumbling bass aimed at pointed drums feeling stripped down yet fully formed.
These warm, resolute repetitions of chiming sound, sound as hot accompanying sunrise as they do sundown. Eric Ricker and Ted Krisko aka Ataxia tune their highly charged currents of grainy emotion into analogue referencing pleasure on their opening and most brilliant VHS. Memories are also engaged by Kodak Moment which again captivates your attention by a series of seductive, finely tuned electronic events, this time punctuated by rugged bass mapping out atmospheres and resounding stereo in equal measure. Ryan Crosson alongside Shaun Reeves then deliver an excellent Edit which shuffles the wonderful elements still further into a succinct six minutes.
What’s not to love? If you could kill for a bassline then this is it. Undoubtedly we’ve landed at party central and you get the clear impression that the producers (including Cesar Merveille and Isis) enjoyed creating Robots of Dawn as much as we do listening. It continues for nine plus minutes and every second of its funky, fuelled crisp electronic Dance Music is worth it. Tempelhof then flips the coin with sizzling (and I do mean hot) Acid sequences that scorch the stereo with perfect precession. Lasting over thirteen minutes of eccentric ecstasy the rhythms shine and shimmy to complete this excellent release of sound from Mathew Jonson & Ryan Crosson.
Launching themselves into 2017 with just the sort of typical flair you would except from the two producers (and label) this new four track EP does all you desire (then a bit more). Origin 99 soon takes hold of the airwaves care of a riveting, direct funkiness that repeats its signature commandingly over a brisk percussion loop. One Two Five, hits next and is all about the bassline which is once again augmented by some sassy percussion and accompanying keyboard chimes. Then the aptly titled, Prowler feels more dangerous with nervy synth lines caressing dark Acid basslines, leaving the freer rhythms of Blood Moon to establish an irresistibly funky sensation as gritty stabs clash with Latin styled percussive elements. All too hot to handle.
Release: February 24 (Vinly) and March 10 (Digital) 2017.
Which artist attracted you to electronic music in the first place, and who would you say is your biggest influence currently?
Hawtin from the beginning was huge for me and we were all/still are pretty big Perlon/Zip/Ricardo fans. Unfortunately I don’t get to see Zip play much any more but I always take a lot from his DJ sets. He’s definitely my favorite for a few years now, but Hawtin dominated my early interest in electronic music. From a studio perspective, these days I get a lot from working with Cesar (Merveille). He’s really geeky when it comes to his gear and technology and has less regimented way of working than I do. Every time we go into a session we have a nice back and forth and helps us to understand different ways of working together and I can take certain points and apply them to what I do later on by myself. Sort of like little reminders or tricks to fill out a track more.
Listening back to the excellent DRM (produced with Cesar Merveille) it’s striking the breadth of styles, moods and tempo’s that you engage. Do you find you are as free to do so when DJ’ing – how do you think that people’s appreciation of difference has developed in the past number of years?
Sometimes I feel I can wander around wherever I want when the crowd is up for it, it depends from night to night. This happened most recently at Stereo in Montreal. Peoples appreciation of difference could have to do with the age of people in attendance. When i was younger I didn’t really listen to the same type of music I listen to now and I would think that it would be a similar situation with other people. Also I feel more venues are starting to cultivate crowds or scenes that dealt with a bit left of center type of club music, which is fantastic. It used to be the weird records only come out at after hours and now in certain places it’s encourage during peak time. I think that’s fantastic.
Can you tell us about your next album collaboration with Cesar Merveille? And how would you contrast working with musical instruments and electronics?
We’re trying to take what we did on the first album and go further. I don’t want to say it’s darker than the first album but there is a mood change. On “DRM” we used a lot of instrument samples, recorded a few vocals and had maybe one session player recording. The new album we’re recording much more in terms of different session musicians, different instruments. It feels like there are a lot more layers in every track and the atmosphere is thicker. Also we’ve added the modular synth elements. Cesar has gotten pretty deep on modular stuff since the first album and I am learning more and more each day. The modular elements have added a specific character that was not present on the first album and have helped to blend electronic sound with traditional instruments even more effectively.
Has moving back to America (Brooklyn, New York) given you fresh inspiration? How is life in New York?
New York has been a great change. Its weird because I can’t imagine living anywhere else in this moment. It reminds you to move your ass every day which I think is great for me. I want to expand with some releases outside of Visionquest and possibly start a new alias project, so the city provides constant motivation to bring these ideas into reality. And then there’s the food in New York. Pretty surprised I haven’t had a massive weight gain because of all the temptation.
Do you have a favourite instrument, and do you own one?
Tough to say. Right now double bass. I don’t own one unfortunately.
How would you describe your working day, and the creative process?
Wake up, do label and agent emails because most people I work with are in Europe. Then step out of the house to run any errands or go to get groceries, then back. Eat and start in the studio. If I’m not wrapping something I’ve already started, I’ll pick a piece of equipment and start playing around with it. Sometimes that means a bass sound or a rough bass line I play on keys. Then record that into midi and build around it. Some times I make a complete ambient track, then add some drums and it becomes something else. It’s always different. I want to start sampling older classical or jazz records now that my setup is sorted in my new home so that could put a twist on things in the months to come.
Can you tell us about the plans for the forthcoming 5 Years of Visionquest tour?
We’re not doing a tour or calling the collective dates a tour. We plan to celebrate only with certain promoters who we have remained close with over the years, that have stuck by us from the very beginning and to incorporate other artists and friends who have done the same. The event we have lined up for June in New York could be one of the highlights of my year.
What else do you have planned for 2016?
Lots of releases if the timing goes to plan (which rarely happens). Whether it be remixes, EPs or the album, EPs for MDRNTY and Visionquest are in the bag. Ces and I will hopefully put the album out in early fall. I did a collab with Livio & Roby for their upcoming album on Desolat. I also want to start working on a live set with Cesar after the album is complete.
Firstly, sorry to hear that Sergio is under doctor’s orders. How is he getting with his recovery?
Sergio’s back is doing better, slowly recovering. We hope to be back on the road and fully operational in December.
Your new release ‘Old Streets’ on Soul Clap once again highlights your musical skills as well as your song writing abilities. How do you compare the importance of your timely melodies and sassy grooves with the more minimal, functional sounds that have been dominating many dancefloors?
I think essentially it comes down to a slightly lesser focus on sound “for the sound”. We love to explore sounds and try to find innovative textures but ultimately we search for a sound that inspires us to play. We likely have a more “old school” approach when it comes to melodies than modern days tracks. Some tracks today literally have the same note repeated but the sound itself varies in such ways that it creates a convincing and catchy hook, almost sounding melodically complex sometimes. I think this is as commendable as a more melodic approach. We’re just more on one side than the other.
Can you talk us through the process of how you produced/wrote the track?
‘Old Streets’ was produced in Washington DC. The “recipe” there has been the same pretty much every time: jamming on synths sync’d up with drum machines and recording as much as we can… occasionally going to the computer to start picking up the right loops and elements. Finally, we recorded the vocals that Sergio had written. The final sequencing is usually what takes us the most time. Sometimes it is obscenely long. It’s almost as if the infinity of combinations of sequencing freezes us. You can completely change the vibe and almost the style of a track with sequencing… Letting the tracks develop slowly and repeating some elements for a while can make a track real deep, whereas changing things fast will make it more pop. These decisions are also part of the process.
Your current release for Matt Tolfrey’s Leftroom Limited ‘House With 500 Rooms’ showcases a tougher more robust side to your productions. What’s the story behind the title, and how did you first hook up with Leftroom?
“House With 500 Rooms” is a play on an amazing old song from the 80s by a band from New Zealand called The Chills. Their song is really pretty and gentle classic 80s, lofi indie pop. And it was called “House With A Hundred Rooms.” Since our track is all about a macho braggadocio, it just seemed sort of funny to try and be that way even in the title of our track by topping another title that uses “House” even though that song has nothing to do with the genre. It is indeed a tougher, darker and more dancefloor side of us that’s showcased in this case. This diversity is probably because we enjoy a lot of different genres and never really limited ourselves to any subgenre.
Leftroom makes sense for this EP as it represents a label with a classic sense of House music. We are really happy Matt wanted to release it. We met him through friends at parties and always had connected with him. He’s a great person.
Having already released music on the likes of Culprit and Visionquest what plans do you have for moving into 2016?
We have few more tracks/EPs we hope to release in the near future. One is more on the House side and the other more rock. A bit like the “Old Streets”/”House With 500 Rooms” combo.
And finally, how would you say that your main influences play into your music?
A lot, essentially. I would say they play 70% of the part. Then there is probably a good 20% of “direct” influence from playing in the club and experiencing a track there. This is a different kind of influence in a way kind of like the difference between studying a textbook vs practice. The last 10% comes from being in our “bubble”. We tend to be also relatively isolated when it comes to production and this 10% accounts for that.
After a stream of releases on labels like Supplement Facts and Cocoon this stunning production for Visionquest now appears. It’s the sort of music that could played loud or quite and still leave an indelible impression. The title track, Underwater bubbles with energy yet combines an airy sense of ambience alongside a series of unrelenting beats all of which rewards your experience. Forward thinking and emotional music.
1996 seems like a long way away now but that’s when this series began and now we’re at number 40 with maestro Solomun. The mix opens with an emotive sequence of sounds cumulating in Avatism’s haunting Different Spaces and then develops the mood across the breadth of the first CD with a blend beautifully atmospheric music ending on SOHN’s notable The Wheel. The second CD continues the theme with music from Audiojack and Radio Slave elevating the temperature while providing more muscular productions that end with Ada’s acidic 2 BUM BUM.
Kostya Skober is a Ukrainian Techno DJ and producer and while this style of music doesn’t usually say that much to me the unrelenting drive of Step Outside definitely appeals. It’s not all down to the beat either as the rich atmospheric layers of sound and funkier touches all lend this something special. Listen below…
The Rule To Survive – 31st Anniversary
Originally emerging from Italy’s electronic music scene of the late seventies N.O.I.A. has been now re-releasing their back catalogue, accompanied by remixers updating it all into 2014 etc. Not that the original of The Rule to Survive needs evolving anyway having been mixed in 1983 by Tony Carrasco it still bears all the hall marks that went on to influence House and Nu Beat, besides sounding excellent in its own right. Prins Thomas Diskomiks is a good choice of remixer and he handles it with due care and affection, there’s also a great version from Baldelli & Dionigi which again expands the originals possibilities. Next is, Time is over, which was from later in the decade and doesn’t sound quite so edgy employing typically popish melodies, although is complimented by a remix from Gaudi & The Orb.
TJM- Expanded Edition
Big Break Records (Casablanca Records)
Tom Moulton has been pivotal to the development of Dance music in the 70’s as Christian John Wikane’s eloquent sleeve notes proudly testify. This self-titled solo album was released in 1979, recorded at the Legendary Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia it also featured former Temptation Ron Tyson on lead vocals and also one Arthur Baker who helped to co-write and arrange. Opening with the blistering Disco-tastic, ‘I Don’t Need No Music’ the music trips the light fantastic through the tail end of the Disco era but remains fresh to this day, percussion and melody fuelled. Try the epic ten minute plus version of ‘Storm Warning’ complete with sound effects plus soaring strings and horns for a touch of exuberant Tom Moulton magic….
Your latest single for Visionquest: Rise and Fall comes just ahead of your third album release and highlights the different aspects to your sound with the title playing full on for the dancefloor, while Ask You blends cosmic sounding funk together with vocals. Who has influenced your sound most?
All three of us our real music lovers and record collectors, we listen to all kinds of music. We were always lucky to release our music on our favourite labels, like Items & Things and Visionquest – their music and dj sets are a big inspiration for our work. Also the time we released on Playhouse was a big influence with all those great artists around us like Losoul, Isolee, Ricardo Villalobos.
Can you talk us through the process of producing one of the tracks from the new single (or from the album)?
The idea behind Rise And Fall was to produce an uplifting big room bomb. We still like these moments when the bass fades away and after a 16bar break it’s redemption time when the track kicks back in. The track was made in Ableton. Drums are 909, 808 and 707 samples. We never get tired of the classic Roland sounds. It’s like Fender or Gibson sounds for guitarists. It always fits. Then comes the main synth sound which is a Waldorf Pulse sample combined with a very short chopped voice sample. After the first break the organ bass completes the sounds. What we like to do after the song is roughly arranged is we assign some parameters to a controller and tweak the faders and knobs. In this case it was the filter and the decay time of the Waldorf, the volume of the voice and the effect sends. At the end we did some edits to the fader runs but not too much to keep the feel of a live performance.
The two phrases you have used to describe your sound: cabaret-independent-house and NEW WAVE DISCO sound exciting and hot. What ideas are most important to you as artists?
The pseudo music style cabaret-independent-house was kind of a joke and ghost that has been following us for many years. We don’t even know what that expression means. New Wave Disco comes more close to our sound as we really love new wave and synth pop music. The idea is to be inspired by all kind of artists, musicians and filmmakers and try to express this in our own work. We also love it when people dance to our music.
How would you describe the importance of vocals in today’s Dance music? The two more melodic vocals on You Play: Perfect Gun and Dreaming is Fun sound different to the rest being heavily influenced by Euro-Disco/Pop. Can you tell us about how that style came to appeal to you?
From the early start of Rework in 2000 with our first release “Anyway I Know You” on Playhouse we decided to work with a girl singer. This became our trademark sound. I don’t know if vocals are that important its just another facet of dance music and we see vocals more like an additional instrument in our work. Perfect Gun and Dreaming is Fun refer to October Love Song or Wrong In All Our Ways on our previous albums.
How would you describe the difference between playing ‘live’ and Dj’ing?
We really love both. Sometimes we grab more attention when we play live and Sascha is standing in the front row doing her live singing and sometimes a stage dive. But on both we like to play with new rework tracks and loops and started to keep it more minimal. We destroyed many synths on our earlier tours so we decided to leave them at home and play with our controllers. On our Dj sets we love to play tracks from other artist and when they are real cool in the club, we both look at each other like little kids and ask how did they do this track, its so crazy good. Guess we always like the music from other artists more than our own.
Where can people get to hear you play over the summer?
We play a showcase with the Visionquest guys at Sonar in June. Some other gigs are just in the planning.
Set your speakers to stun as this latest release from Visionquest will surpass your expectations by moving forward into 2013 with a bang. Clarian is one half of Footprintz who alongside Guy Gerber has produced the opener Claire which fuses eerie atmospheres together with haunting voices and crisp drums to sound somewhat epic and emotional. Destroy, She Says follows with timeless Beach Boys harmonies feeling golden, as always, against melodic electronic riffs that bizarrely sound just like they were made for each other – you can but dream. Renaissance continues the same mood inducing reaction, as Remove Control turns it upside down with further dancefloor energy with likewise Through Your Mind feat. Spaceman adding Acid tweaks into the mix. U (Unfinished) then returns to moodier electronic wizardry to complete this very aptly titled Chemical Gardens EP.
This has been playing my head for a time now. There is in fact something about Underneath the Pines that I can’t quite pin down. Although, needless to say that Justin Robertson’s latest single (under his Deadstock 33s guise) plays beyond irresistible, indeed it’s the sheer distinctive quality that he lends to his vocal, alongside the tastefully funky electronics, that defines its very own space and time. Put it like this. The House Mix is on repeat. Excellent remixes come from a breakbeat fuelled Ewan Pearson, and a Chicago referencing Disco Bloodbath both of whom only add to the sensory pleasure. If this sounds appealing then listen out for his forthcoming album: The Pilgrim’s Ghost in March.
Pool’s follow up to their debut for the label is in ways perfect Pop music: its got melody, lashings of cool instrumentation, which along with a razor sharp edge sounds little short of magnificent. Flex leans on Indie for sure with awkward guitars and grinding bass feeling breezy while its playful vocals embrace you in a happy sort of melancholy way that’s particularly appealing. Aeroplane provide the remix, and they don’t disappoint either, transforming the rhythm into something altogether European with bright keys and buzzing chords competing with bouncy Disco bass. Botox is the second original composition and has gentler, more endearing melodies despite its title, which Stimming then re-imagine as intoxicating Deeper house with twisted bass and shuffling drums.
release: February 18
Electric Avenue Records
Memoir’s low-slung chugging groove is situated somewhere in Acid drenched bliss. And things only get better when the deep bassline hits. Backed up by an array of classic sounding drums and deadpan Organ this is all about building mood and your anticipation, which it does expertly via its undulating Acid. Label head J Cub’s Deep Dub does just that with tougher drums and punchy keys eventually giving way to warm pads and hints of enticing vocal on his fist-rate remix. But back to the title Pulling Strings which ups the tempo alongside a Yello styled euro bassline that sizzles with energy to round off this notable release.
released – Feb
ruary 18 (Vinyl only)
Let It Go
Black Vinyl Records
Entering their seventeenth year Black Vinyl’s latest release delves once again into guitar inspired, soulful rhythms which this time feature the unmistakable vocal of Old Bastard. Part One of the package sees the smooth melodies blend into neatly shuffling percussion on Mauritzio’s Original version. However, try N’Dinga Gaba’s remix which highlights the voice lifting it over bouncier tribal infused grooves, that are then accompanied by an instrumental for good measure. Mauritzio also explores further Jazzy aspects on his two remaining versions to focus your attention on the versatility/ quality of the music.
What first attracted you to music? Which artists / songs are your earliest influences?
I started playing many musical instruments from an early age as well as vocal training in my teens so I was surrounded by a lot of music when I was growing up. The majority of this was classical but there was the odd bit of jazz and contemporary too.
I took a liking to pretty much every genre of my music going in my early to late teens, indie, trance, hip-hop and garage and it wasn’t until going to Ibiza in my early twenties that the penny dropped with electronic music.
I decided I wanted to become a DJ in the summer of 2005 while spending a season out there for the first time. I went to DC10 almost every week and became inspired by watching DJs like Tania Vulcano, Clive Henry and Dan Ghenacia. I was 22 and had just graduated from University and had never tried it before but my gut instinct told me it was the right thing to do
How did your relationships with Leftroom and Visionquest come about?
I actually met Tolfrey the same summer in 2005. We met one Monday at DC10 through a mutual friend. We became good friends over time and when finishing my first few tracks in 2010, he was one of the first people I sent them to. I met Seth at WMC in Miami in 2007 and later that year warmed up for him and Ryan at Mint club in Leeds. I’ve since met Lee and Shaun and we’ve all become good friends. During DEMF in 2010, Matt played the boys the first few tracks I’d sent him, they really liked ‘Live A Little’, decided in the October that they were going to sign it and it got released the following summer.
Tell us about the process for selecting the tracks for your new mix compilation: Leftroom Presents… Laura Jones?
I knew I didn’t want to do a straight-up club mix so opted for something a little deeper. With liking so many different types of tracks, pin-pointing the angle to take with it was a little tricky but just picked tracks I liked and hoped that a good selection would come back to me having been agreed by the labels involved. I commissioned three exclusive remixers which was the fun part – Matt Tolfrey & Russo, Gavin Herlihy and Ryan Crosson. They were able to choose their own track to remix from Leftroom’s back-catalogue and then I very much left them to their own devices. I picked the three I did as I knew I could trust them all to deliver which they did so it all worked out perfectly in the end.
How did you go about producing music – any favourite piece of software / hardware that you like to use?
I currently share a studio with my boyfriend Gavin Herlihy. We have a desktop iMac with Mackie HR 824 monitors, a 72-key keyboard, Maschine, a Roland Gaia synth and a Korg Electribe. My main DAW is Logic and the main plug-ins I use are Native Instrument’s Kontakt and Spectrasonic’s Trillian and Omnisphere for its collection of hardware synth samples
I’ve used primarily soft-synths to create my tracks thus far as we didn’t have any hardware at the time. We’ve only just started to invest in hardware this year so the aim is to build up the hardware collection and continue learning the ropes.
How you describe your sound in terms of DJ’ing? What do you prefer to dj with?
I love and play a real variety of music in my sets. I tend to keep things pretty moody but melodic at the same time. I play anything from stripped back Deep House and right through to techno. I even play the dubbier, more breaks-style music if the mood suits. Ultimately it doesn’t really bother me what genre something belongs to, if it’s good and it’s right in the moment I’ll play it. I also think it can really work in your favour if what you play is relatively diverse as one thing I’ve noticed when touring round Europe and the rest of the world is that every country seems to be at a very different stage in the evolution of underground dance music so it helps to be able to tailor the sound on the night.
Right now, I am playing with Traktor Scratch as I don’t have the best vision and it’s easier for me to see the computer screen than it is text on a CD or vinyl sleeve. I only started using it a couple of months ago and am using CD at the moment but will be moving to vinyl pretty soon and actually I think longer term, once I have a tour manager in tow (and someone to carry the bags), I’ll most probably go back to vinyl. Ha!
What are the positives and negatives affecting dance music in 2012?
The main negative affecting dance music in 2012 is the fact that the underground scene is losing its identity a little. I remember when I started collecting vinyl, I couldn’t get enough of searching for tracks I’d heard out in the clubs and it wouldn’t be that difficult to find and the quality would be next-level. Now, you try and look for something and you have to wade through reams of noise to find it. I think now that it’s easier for people to start labels and put out music digitally, it’s diluting the quality of the music.
More and more DJs are becoming involved in the commercial side of things at the expense of what they believe in order to make more money. Some club-owners seem to be doing the same. I recently played at a new club in Europe, amazing sound, great vibe but tarnished slightly by the fact the owner can’t decide whether to keep it underground or go commercial. I really think people should stick to their guns regardless of the money that’s involved but guess I’m not a club owner in the current economic climate.
I think the main positive would have to be the continued comeback of vinyl. I’ve been living in Leeds since coming to uni here in 2001 and I’ve been witness to the best underground record stores in the city gradually closing down one by one with exception of one or two who sell a wider range of genres as well as tickets for events. In the last month, one has opened again in Leeds selling only underground dance music and it seems to be a roaring success thus far. It’s called Waxwerks and is adjoined by a new club space called The Garage, which is also the best underground clubbing experience Leeds has seen in a good while.
Who do you like to listen to outside of house music?
I’m finding very little time for alternative listening at the moment but when I have the time, I love a lot of different music, old and new. I’m really in to electronica and downbeat stuff. I still love hip-hop, garage and the more stripped back musical dubstep like Burial and Consequence. Early influences who I still like to listen to are bands like Radiohead and the Rolling Stones. I love Arthur Russell, Prince and Stevie Wonder too, they’re all big big inspirations of mine. And I guess more recently, artists such as Blood Orange, Jamie Woon and Junip.
‘Leftroom Presents… Laura Jones’ is released mid-June on Leftroom with an accompanying vinyl sampler appearing at the same time…