“There is a thread that runs through all this music that ties it together. Listening to ambient came much later, but again you hear similarities. I mean, in the early days you could just remove the beats and call it ambient! No beat? Ambient!”
The first blog post of 2020 is the third part of an impromptu mini-series exploring the subtle links between ambient and drum & bass cultures, before returning to more familiar d&b territory. Apparently there are more common threads, ramifications and intersecting trajectories in our musical micro-universe than I had initially imagined and it’s been really fascinating to find out that the curators of the brilliant labels presented in the series (Ryan from A Strangely Isolated Place, Dennis from 3Six and Huw from Serein) share a similar musical background. Their labels’ output – beatless in most cases – might sound worlds apart, however I’d still argue that there are reflections of drum & bass somewhere hidden or implied in their influences; eventually all music is connected.
“The name Killer Smile just seemed to fit with our vision of the label, a multi-genre label putting out dancefloor tracks built around killer breaks and basslines, as well as more emotive tracks made to put a smile on your face…”
There’s music that captures and echoes a beautiful time and place, staying with you forever. Foul Play have resonated with me from the very first moment and will always reserve a special place in my heart and record collection. On November 2013, I published “Whatever happened to … Foul Play?”, a retrospective account of their history, discography highlights and musical legacy. A later edition of the blog’s “Tracks I Wish I’d Written” series included some edits and finer details. Fast forward to the present, jungle/drum & bass legend and Foul Play founding member John Morrow picks up the narrative where it left off: from the last chapter of Foul Play for Partisan and his cross-genre solo musical explorations as Johnny Halo and Skeleton Army, to the chain of events that rekindled his passion for drum & bass and the launch of his new boutique label Killer Smile (the 4th after Oblivion, Panik and Cellar Door). The sequel I never thought I’d write …
“As musical cultures, I think ambient and drum & bass certainly find parallels in each other – they both loosely connect around personal freedom – be it euphoric or mindful, as genres they are similar in the emotions they elicit …” – Ryan Griffin
In last year’s anniversary feature I had given a hint about expanding the blog’s scope to sporadic non-d&b material, essentially to music I love and enjoy, when I am not listening to drum & bass. The maxim is always the same: “I write about music I like, written by people I like”. My affinity for album covers, liner notes, film scores, ambient and modern electronica has been manifested in previous posts to the point of nausea. What I have not talked about yet though, is that I have often day-dreamt about my own vanity project, or becoming a glorified post-boy as a friend has playfully stated in a past interview here. The mechanics of creating a record label are easier than ever, however I guess that the ship has sailed for now. Counter-intuitively, one of the labels that has inspired me with their passion, meticulousness and visual aesthetics has not been covered on the blog yet and is far from what you have probably guessed. And that brings us to this month’s post. I have the privilege and pleasure to host Ryan Griffin, owner and curator of A Strangely Isolated Place, who shares his insight and narrates the background story of one of the most fascinating labels you are about to stumble upon.
“I wanted to use a methodical, timeless word, which could have different meanings. Obviously, ‘Rotation’ for circular motion on a turntable, ‘Rotation’ in life’s cycle, ‘Rotation’ in art forms that appear, fade, reappear, ‘Rotation’ as a whole; and then ‘Audio’, because audio production is what we’re involved in”.
I have been browsing through my notes pondering about the blog’s 7th year anniversary feature (due this coming April) and couldn’t help wondering about the lengths d&b has reached after all these years. The scene seems as exciting and healthy as ever, abounding with great new music literally every week. It’s been definitely easier, almost de rigueur to establish a new record label nowadays, as opposed to the 90s, however to carve a niche in a small yet saturated market without vision, purpose and commitment is a first class ticket to disappointment.
The next installment of the blog’s ‘This Side/That Side’ label profile series, is about a brand-new, boutique independent record label based in Bournemouth UK, which has been a creative hub the last few years. The brainchild of dj/producer Joe ‘Ride’ Rideout, Rotation Audio was founded through love and dedication to electronic music. The new label will aim to showcase some of the rawest well-known and underground talent in the drum & bass and jungle scene and will focus on the darker roots of the spectrum. Their first release emphatically validated that statement.
“Electronic music is art, not just entertainment” – Simon Viehoff, Nord Label founder
Nord Label is a small independent electronic music record label, based in Berlin, Germany. The brainchild of Simon Viehoff (aka Lebowski), resident dj and co-founder of the Impulse bass culture project, Nord has been established as a genre-defiant creative platform to cater for experimental music across the spectrum; from ambient electronica and drone to techno and drum & bass, oscillating effortlessly between the abstract and the complex. The idea had been conceived and scrutinized for a couple of years before it eventually materialized in 2014, when Simon was presented with two tracks by old friend and Berlin-based producer Ill_K.
“Modern, cinematic takes on ambient electronica and vintage aesthetics, sprinkled with bitter-sweet nostalgia”
Short Trips logo
In the dawn of the 90s emerged a new musical hybrid, fusing various elements and structural forms of electronic music, relying upon composition, experimentation and innovation rather than adhering to formulaic standards associated with specific genres and styles. Free from dance-floor reactions and limitations, championed by electronic music luminaries, the new style was regarded just as suitable for dancing as for home listening. A plethora of generic, as well as imaginative terms were conceived to outline the genre. Continue reading