“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.
“Forget the times ahead”
As another exceptional year for important things, like new wonderful music, draws to an end, I would like to take the opportunity once again to thank all artists and record labels for gracing this year with their beautiful music and safeguarding the art, the passion and the romance. Despite our culture of distraction and minimal attention span that seems hell-bent on burying new releases beneath an endless scroll and the convenience and luxury of streaming technology, the beauty of music transcends through time or media formats and listeners that are really into music are still paying attention.
‘Whatever It Takes’ is a phrase I’ve been saying to myself over the last few years, when I despair with manipulative behaviour, in the face of what seems to be happening in the current climate of media/consumer culture; the lengths that people will go to, the things that they will do to get attention or change people’s opinions. Often people will do whatever it takes to get noticed.
Klute – Whatever It Takes (SUICIDELP20)
I firmly believe that if you want to make a statement in music, you write an album and at the moment those statements are as relevant and interesting as ever. There are still artists that invest time and effort working on well-considered, profound narratives and multi-layered album concepts. Some get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot mid-way and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, unveiling beauty and truth in due course. Despite the convenience and luxury of streaming technology, the beauty of music transcends through time or media formats and listeners that are really into music are still paying attention.
Last year, Klute featured on the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series and revealed that his 9th album was already in the making. Fast forward eleven months later and his new LP titled ‘Whatever It Takes’ is finally released tomorrow (October, 25th). A certified album artist with a rare consistency that spans more than two decades, Klute has opted for full-lengths as a platform of artistic expression, although he could get away with releasing a string of singles for pretty much any label he deemed fit. His latest album is a distraction, refuge and personal remedy from the white noise and hysteria of his surroundings and encapsulates the artistic maturity and versatility of an artist that has defied trends, formulas and genre confines. Renowned for his unique talent to instil a multitude of influences in his productions, from his punk/hardcore origins to techno, house and dub, Klute’s broad repertoire abounds with incredibly inspirational music.
“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.
“I think things are cyclical and in the advent of digital, people crave the physical”
“And I think record collectors will always be buying vinyl and building a collection of good music, then passing on that knowledge to others who might not collect yet, because it’s great and fun and a way of life!”
This is the second installment of the blog’s new series titled “On The Outside, Looking In”. As the title suggests, it is a retrospective sneak view into my guests’ photo albums, collections, musical diaries, hazy memories and internal monologues. The discussion timeline is non-linear, jumping back and forth in times and places, as it would probably be in a real-time conversation with friends, whose music-related work I admire and respect. The concept of interviewing my guests in pairs has been intriguing and thought-provoking, trying to find out how their paths have periodically intersected and eventually converged through music: from rented studio time in the early 90s to custom-made studios and modern production, from raves in warehouses and sweaty basements to transatlantic tours and remixing punk priestess Siouxsie (well, that’s a story for another day), from tape packs and pirate radio to record fairs, eclectic record collections, running boutique record labels in 2019 and everything in-between.
Justice & Dissect
The head title of the series has been inspired from the first Modern Urban Jazz release by Glider-State (Blame & Justice), so it is with great joy that I present the man himself Tony ‘Justice’ Bowes alongside one of the most interesting figures of the new generation of producers Michael ‘Dissect’ Walsh.