Little White Earbuds Hook up your ears Tue, 05 Apr 2016 16:17:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Goodbye from Little White Earbuds Mon, 05 Oct 2015 05:01:42 +0000 440467014_fd29062bd1_o
The very first LWE logo, created by Mark Hofmann back in 2006

Over the last year or so since I announced Little White Earbuds was scaling back, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many people — artists, DJs, readers in general — who have told me how valuable this website has been to their musical development. They’ve told me that our reviews really struck them, because they were written with the aim of educating people and not creating arbitrary rankings between records. They’ve extolled the virtue of our nearly 300 podcasts for bringing new talents to light, giving platforms for their favorite artists, and providing our writers a chance to share their tastes in a very personal fashion. They’ve gushed about our interviews which strayed far beyond the standard questions and asked artists and thinkers to really share their thoughts and feelings with a clued-in audience. And our charts, well, they too were another opportunity for us to bring awareness to the quality music we had the extraordinary privilege of parsing through.

It’s been an incredibly moving year for me. Sometimes sitting here in Chicago I felt like all the work we’d done was just fired off into the void of the Internet without making a difference for anyone. A nice comment here or dozen Facebook likes there would suggest that wasn’t entirely true. But it took hearing it from some of you in real life, to my face, to realize that LWE truly made a difference in dance music culture whether or not we were able to perceive it. It’s incredibly reassuring for me; Lord knows there wasn’t much financial success to prove that was the case.

Coming to terms with this previously hidden success has given me the strength and conviction to finally put a capstone on Little White Earbuds. It’s not that LWE is no longer needed — the sad faces I’ve seen after telling people of the site’s impending closure assures me of this — but I feel like our work here, specifically, is done. The more than 30 people who contributed to LWE over its ten year lifespan have all moved on to do other important (and better paid) work. A few of our staffers, like Jordan Rothlein, Will Lynch, and Andrew Ryce, now do this work full time for Resident Advisor, and I’m so proud of them. And these days I run three record labels (Argot, Tasteful Nudes, and Smart Bar‘s label, Northside ’82) and try to DJ for people, which all require a hell of a lot of time and effort to do up to my standards.

So it’s time to move on, to let a decade’s worth of hard work stand on its own in a miniature library that someone out there may find useful over the years. As a small parting gift, I’ve compiled an exhaustive list of my favorite articles we published on LWE. These are the articles that made me proud to be own and operate this crazy little website — the articles that gave me the personal reassurance that all this work meant something, somewhere. I hope you find something you overlooked or remember a piece that touched you the first time around. I hope you share them with your friends — not for our sake, but because something might change someone’s life, even in a tiny way.

Keep on dancing,

Steve Mizek


Features with a historical bent

Little White Earbuds Interviews Marcus Mixx

It’s You: The History Of A Chicago House Classic

LWE’s Brief History Of Early Electronic Music

Industrial Resonance: The Roots Of Industrial Music

On Your Knees, Sinners: 20 Years Of The House Of God

A Tribute To Aaron-Carl

Features that were think pieces of various sorts

Everything Popular Is Wrong: Making It In Electronic Music Despite Democratization

The Trouble With Abundance

As The World Turns: Time In Dance Music

Quality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Pt. 1

Quality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Pt. 2

Features that were artists interviews

DJ Debriefing With DJ Sprinkles

Little White Earbuds Interviews Kassem Mosse

Little White Earbuds Interviews Move D

Little White Earbuds Interviews Uwe Schmidt

Oliver $ Explains “Doin Ya Thang” To LWE

Little White Earbuds Interviews Shed

Little White Earbuds Interviews Levon Vincent

Little White Earbuds Interviews Todd Edwards

Talking Shop With Running Back

Little White Earbuds Interviews Terre Thaemlitz

Little White Earbuds Interviews Kyle Hall

Talking Shop With Diamonds & Pearls Music

Little White Earbuds Interviews Âme

Little White Earbuds Interviews Thomas Melchior

Little White Earbuds Interviews Prosumer & Murat Tepeli Part 1 & 2

DJ Debriefing With DVS1

Little White Earbuds Interviews Andy Butler

Talking Shop With Innervisions

Matthew Dear Sounds Off To Little White Earbuds


LWE Podcast 05: Tama Sumo

LWE Podcast 14: DJ Sprinkles

LWE Podcast 29: Fred P.

LWE Podcast 32: Chilling The Do (Kassem Mosse & Mix Mup)

LWE Podcast 47: Agnes

LWE Podcast 51: Matthew Styles

LWE Podcast 58: Kettenkarussell

LWE Podcast 59: John Roberts

LWE Podcast 63: Silent Servant vs. DVS1

LWE Podcast 70: Elgato

LWE Podcast 78: Tin Man

LWE Podcast 107: 2toomanygays

LWE Podcast 115: Ben UFO

LWE Podcast 118: Andy Blake

LWE Podcast 125: Tobias Freund

LWE Podcast 149: Levon Vincent

LWE Podcast 152: Prince Of Denmark

LWE Podcast 156: The Black Madonna

LWE Podcast 162: Recondite

LWE Podcast 188: Redshape

LWE Podcast 199: Gerd Janson

LWE Podcast 200: Prosumer

Curator’s Cuts 10: Jordan Rothlein

Curator’s Cuts 11: Per Bojsen-Moller

Curator’s Cuts 26: Brandon Wilner

Curator’s Cuts 33: Justin Cudmore

Curator’s Cuts 35: Steve Kerr

Curator’s Cuts 36: Steve Mizek

LWE Presents MMM

Talking Shopcast With Ostgut Ton

Talking Shopcast With Smallville Records

Talking Shopcast With Aim


Does The Dawg Have Myspace?

LWE Reflects On Minitek

Sect, Sect 1

DJ Sprinkles, Midtown 120 Blues

STL, Silent State

Moritz Von Oswald Trio, Vertical Ascent

Shackleton, The Three EPs

Rainer Trueby, To Know You/Ayers Rock

LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening

John Roberts, Glass Eights

Oliver $, Doin Ya Thang

Joy Orbison, Ellipsis

Lauer, Phillips

Agnes Presents Cavalier, A Million Horses

Cooly G, Playin Me

Ricardo Villalobos, Dependent And Happy

Ry & Frank Wiedemann, Howling

Italojohnson, ITJ-07

DJ Fettburger & DJ Speckgurtel, Speckbass

LWE Reviews Riverwest Fest 2014

Todd Terje, It’s Album Time!

Golden Donna, II

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Little White Earbuds Presents Bambounou Tue, 05 May 2015 05:01:59 +0000 Bambounou-1
Photo by Ilyes Griyeb

By the time Bambounou’s Cobe 12″ dropped on the 50Weapons imprint in 2012 he had already racked up close to a dozen remixes for different artists and three EPs, a quietly prodigious effort for someone who had only been putting out records for two years. It was arguably this appearance on Modeselektor’s dance floor focused off-shoot label that propelled the Parisian producer to more widespread acclaim. The EP was swiftly followed by a full length which seemed perfectly molded to the 50Weapons sound; bass-influenced techno heavy on the mechanics and light on the sentimental nature of music. The musician born Jéremy Guindo-Zegiestowski has released exclusively on the label since, recently following up that 2012 effort with an impressive sophomore album entitled Centrum. Ahead of his American tour for the album, including a Chicago date this Friday at Primary, Bambounou reached out to LWE with a fresh mix of everything that’s been exciting him lately and divulged more about his career to date and making it big in the Dominican Republic.

Hi Jéremy, how’s your day going? What are you up to right now as you reply to these questions?

Bambounou: Hey, I’m just chilling on my couch, cruising Discogs and other music websites, buying some new music and finishing that new track for 50WEAPONS. Pretty much what I do everyday :)

You’re about to head off on an American tour. Have you played there before?

I played in Canada and South/Central America but never in the U.S. No need to tell you how much I’m excited.

You’re even playing in the Dominican Republic. How did these dates come about? How did Bambounou get big in the Caribbean?

Ha, I have absolutely no idea. My agent arranged it, apparently it’s some kind of warehouse vibe in the middle of San Domingo. I can’t wait to discover that part of the world and meet new people ;)

You are touring your dystopian future techno LP Centrum, which I understand is the product of soaking in some literature and films around the subject at a subconscious level. Do you ever set yourself certain parameters or boundaries to work within when you’re making tracks?

I give myself some key words and I like to think about them while I’m making a track. Most of the time, it’s a texture theme like wood or rock. But otherwise I don’t like to give myself boundaries; I’m producing whatever I feel like producing and if I really enjoy it then I’m going to release it. It really depends on my current mood and what state of mind I am in.

You and Valentino [French Fries] have been good friends for a long time and were instrumental in each other’s growth in electronic music. I know the two of you have helped each other out before in the studio but can we expect to hear a collaborative release from the two of you any time soon?

Yes, Valentino is my best friend and I’ve known him for quite a while now. We just finished an EP at the Red Bull Studios in Paris. We had the chance to use it for a whole week and we did a two track EP which was released for free on April 30th. For example, our keywords for this EP were Ninja House New York and Natation (swimming in French).

You’ve been exclusively releasing on 50Weapons since 2012. Do you find that releasing with one label has certain advantages?

It does. For example, people can see you evolving, there’s a proper development work and I really needed that in 2012.

I know that producers sometimes work on particular parts of their skills in the studio, trying to hone a certain sound or trick to get their tracks sounding better. Is there anything you’re currently exploring a lot in your tracks, through a sound or a technique?

These days, I’m exploring extremely short delays and how it can make your sound wider. Before, I used to use a reverb to do that stereo effect but now I’m doing it with a delay and it is sounding great.

I was interested to read your thoughts in a recent interview about remixing the Boyz Noize and Skrillex project Dog Blood. You said the opportunity to remix something that would reach a more mainstream audience is appealing to you, because if that crowd enjoys what you’ve done, they have compromised what they believed they like rather than you compromising your sound. With that in mind is there anyone you wouldn’t want to remix? And if you could remix anyone or any track out there who or what would it be?

I don’t actually listen to what we can refer to mainstream music as pop or EDM. But If I find something interesting in the track or if I have an immediate idea then I’ll try and work on a remix. To be honest I don’t know which track I would remix if I could choose, right now, I just feel like working on my own music :)

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?

It’s pretty much what I play in club at the moment, some recent stuff, a little bit of my stuff and some upcoming tracks ;) The first track is from our collaboration with French Fries for RBMA and it’s called “Dramatically Isolated.”

What can we expect from Bambounou over the next year?

I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, going to tour more and never going to give me any boundaries. Music-wise, I have a split EP with an amazing artist coming out on 50WEAPONS later this year, along with a new solo release for my Berlin fam.

Download: LWE Presents Bambounou (60:12)


01. French Fries & Bambounou, “Dramatically Isolated” [Red Bull Studios Paris]
02. Hüpnosaurus, “Muru” (Bookworms Remix) [Wicked Bass]
03. Tambien and Tiago, “Track 01″ [Public Posession]
04. Claudia Anderson, “Neutral State” [Singular Records]
05. Tessela, “Bottom Out” [R&S Records]
06. Alan Backdrop, “Siaka” [OGUN Records]
07. Bambounou, “Each Other” [50Weapons]
08. Markus Suckut, “For Set #3″ [Figure]
09. DJ Hyperactive, “Venus” (Truncate Remix) [CLR]
10. Exos, “Attfalt” [Thule Records]
11. IVVVO, “Raised” [Crème Organization]
12. Binny, “Retrospective” (Chicago Skyway Mix 1) [Scenery]
13. Bambounou, “I Ride” [50Weapons]

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DJ Debriefing With Jason Kendig (Includes 8 Hour Mix) Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:01:11 +0000 DJDebrief-Kendig-1

Welcome to DJ Debriefing, a series of LWE features where we ask DJs about the music they’re actually playing, their processes, and their gear. Our latest interview subject is Jason Kendig, the San Francisco-based DJ best known as 1/4th of the Honey Soundsystem collective. Raised in Detroit, Kendig cultivated both his taste for the best of house and techno and an indefatigable work ethic. These skills have been sharpened to dangerous levels since he joined Honey Soundsystem eight years ago, and now he can be found showing them off around the world quite regularly. I’ve been lucky enough to catch him in Chicago a handful of times over the last year and he’s blown me away every time. His selections seem prescient, as if he knows what you want to hear before you do. Mixing with care and grace, Kendig makes it hard to leave until he steps down from the booth. LWE is offering eight full hours of Kendig as proof, taken from an intimate As You Like It event earlier this year. You can find it at the end of this interview with one of dance music’s most promising selectors.

What kind of mixer did you learn to mix on?

Jason Kendig: The first mixer I ever had was an old Radioshack Realistic mixer (probably from the 70s or 80s) that had illuminated VU meters before upgrading to a Numark DM2002X. After I moved to San Francisco I switched to an Allen & Heath Xone:62. I taught myself to beat match using a turntable I found at a thrift store and a turntable gifted to me by my grandma from her old hi-fi stereo system which had a little rotary pitch control.

Tell us about an early DJ gig (or series of gigs) that helped make you the DJ you are now.

My first residency was at a club called Motor which was located in Hamtramck, an enclave within the city of Detroit. It was a Tuesday night weekly called Family thrown by Adriel Thornton that ran from 1997-2000 that really pulled a diverse section of people from the techno/party scene and the more musically open minded gay scene. Playing every week along with Derek Plaslaiko and opening for an incredible array of local and international talent really helped shape my musical aesthetic and helped it grow. I’ll never forget the time Derrick May scolded me for not turning down the headphone volume before he went on. To this day I try and make it a point to turn down the headphone volume when I trade off.

What is your usual selection process for packing your record bag before gigs?

It varies from gig to gig, but I consider who I’ll be playing with and what my time slot will be. Pulling from recent acquisitions, either from Discogs purchases or a visit to a record shop. My record collection is only vaguely organized. The majority of the newer additions or recently played selections are in stacks around the perimeter of my studio, while the older records are somewhat sorted in an Ikea bookshelf by era, genre, and region; and, if there’s enough, by label or artist. Sometimes I wish I had a divining rod to help gravitate to where a particular record might be.

When I’m sorting digital tracks it’s usually organized in a folder created for the specific event, though it can be a little challenging after a few months trying to recall when I might of acquired a song. I just haven’t got around to utilizing the Rekordbox app. I still prefer the tactile and visual experience of vinyl.

What’s one unexpected item you always bring with you to gigs, and why?

Maybe not everytime, but often I’ll have Haribo gummy bears with me. Sometimes Josh Cheon will surprise me with a bag when we play together. I guess I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Do you enjoy playing B2B? Who are some of your favorite B2B partners?

Absolutely! Playing back to back with someone can be a lot of fun. It keeps you on your toes. Mentally calculating the crowd’s reaction and cataloging what records you brought with you against what your partner is selecting. When you’re on a mutual wavelength it can be electrifying. In the past I’ve loved playing with Mike Servito, Carlos Souffront, and Derek Plaslaiko. and I always have fun playing with the Honey Soundsystem boys.

What are a couple of the records you can always reach for if you notice the crowd isn’t feeling what you’re playing?

Depending on the context, something Cajmere/Green Velvet-related is a safe bet. Vin Sol’s “House Freaks” got the most screams at a recent show, though.

Are there any other tracks that when you first heard them you didn’t think that they would work in a club context, but then you actually tried it, it worked better than you expected?

A recent one that comes to mind is Skee Mask’s “Torpor 12″ on Ilian tape. My friend Bret turned me on to it. Really cool atmospherics, and it works well when blending with other cuts.

What would you say are some of your favorite or go-to tool tracks?

Point G (.G) has been releasing a bunch of records again recently. Really fun for mixing and maybe bridging between tracks. And this old Tan-Ru record on Trelik has been in my bag a lot lately. It has these really great tribally percussive elements and crowds always seem to get into it.

What is your favorite time of day to play? And perhaps a favorite length of time?

Whereas there is definitely a rush when you step up to the decks during a peak hour, warming up the room can be a lot of fun. Testing out records you might not normally get to play out. Of course the late night slots are a lot of fun too, playing for a crowd that’s already primed up and ready to keep dancing. That’s when you can start to pull out the weird tracks.

Ideally, a set would be at least three hours. But often, at least in the clubs in San Francisco, you’re lucky to get two hours. I have a tendency to over pack for gigs so there are always tracks you wish you could get to but then you run out of time.

What would you say is the oldest record that’s still in your DJ bag? What about the newest?

In my current bag, Ish, “Don’t Stop” on T.K. Disco from 1978 is technically the oldest. Maurizio’s “M4″ is probably something that I’ve owned the longest that I still pull out regularly, even for home listening. As far as new, the Paranoid London album is really hot. I love the track “Lovin U (Aww Shit).” I just wish they’d put it out as a single so it could be cut louder.

Do you have favorite tracks to end with?

It depends if I’m setting up someone else or if I’m playing the closing set. Recent closing selections have been: Romanthony, “Up All Night”; Black Rascals ft. Cassio Ware, “So In Love”; The Juan Maclean, “Running Back To You”; George & Glenn Miller, “Touch Your Life.”

Now for some gear-oriented questions: What kind of headphones do you use, what kind of needles do you use, and what is your favorite record bag?

I’ve been a fan of the Sennheiser HD25-1 II. They’ve lasted the longest out of any of my previous headphones. And I recently procured a pair of Shure M44-7 needles. They really do make a difference for both tracking and volume. Even though I might fantasize about a Rimowa flight case, my UDG trolley has held up surprisingly well through the years considering the beatings it’s been through.

Do you have any musical aspirations beyond DJing?

As far as making music, I still like to mess around at home in my studio and create tracks. Even if it’s just for the joy of creating grooves and the sound design aspect of it. But like so many others say, eventually I get bored with the tracks and move on to the next idea. So maybe an aspiration should be to put the finishing touches on them and get them out to the world? Occasionally I’ll test out tracks I’ve made on the dance floor to gauge reactions and to hear these creations on a proper sound system. At the end of the day I love playing music for others. And there is a lot of incredible music out there to discover.

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Little White Earbuds Interviews Miles Thu, 12 Feb 2015 06:01:09 +0000 5948_353798691404384_814606324_n

Modern Love has expanded dramatically over the past couple of years, widening their palette from the grubby, northern techno they initially made their name in to encompass a host of idiosyncratic sounds and styles, from Demdike Stare’s experiments in sampled patchworks to whatever it is you call Andy Stott’s recent output. Yet the personnel behind the label have remained remarkably consistent — none more so than Miles Whittaker. Member of label mainstays such as Demdike Stare and Pendle Conven, and prolific solo artist under the names MLZ, Suum Cuique, Millie, and more, Whitaker has had his hand in more of the label’s releases than anyone else. As endearing old YouTube videos demonstrate, Miles’ hardware-centric attitudes is responsible for much of the label’s own sonic identity — something Miles injects into all of his projects whether using software on the road, or simply capturing the noisy incidental sounds of his machines for Suum Cuique. LWE sat down with Whittaker last year for a lengthy chat about relocation, collaboration, cracked software, and much more.

Who is Miles and how is he different from MLZ?

Miles Whittaker: MLZ was me trying to be other people, I think. You know, when you start producing music, you are inspired by other producers and other music. So MLZ was me basically being inspired and wanting to be these other producers or wanting to sound like other producers. And then I decided to stop MLZ maybe a year or two after Demdike Stare started because Demdike Stare showed me that we could just do what we wanted, go wherever we wanted to go with it, and I became a lot more confident. Wen I decided to release more solo material, I wanted to do it under my own name.

So then what is the status of some of your earlier projects, such as MLZ and Pendle Coven?

I mean, the Pendle Coven thing is a lot different because there’s two of us involved, and Gary [Howell] has been studying for the last four years quite intensively — ecological construction, green building, and this kind of thing. So he’s been away from the scene completely. I still see him a lot, but we just haven’t had a chance to work on anything.

MLZ was very much a techno moniker — everything that I released was pretty straight up. And I needed to break away from it, really, because I just couldn’t produce in that way anymore. I think my tastes and horizons have broadened quite a lot. Like I said, that was due to Demdike Stare and starting to work with Sean [Canty].

If MLZ was techno, then is there any specific genre for Miles?

The more I buy and produce and am involved in music, the less I like genres. I think they’re really constricting and almost prejudiced in some ways, and I don’t like that. I don’t sit down and specifically want to write a certain thing. I’m not aiming for a market, I’m not aiming for branding or anything like that. Releasing on Modern Love allows me the freedom to do what I want. The creative control is all mine. We’ll sit down with the label and they’ll help us compile a release. I think the Miles album is pretty much all over the place like the Demdike Stare records are. They’re all over the place, which is freedom, and I love it. I think if you’re part of a genre or a subgenre, you’re kind of tied to it, and you have to be very careful. You’ve got to tread carefully if you’re known for that kind of thing. And that’s why I decided to stop MLZ. It’s basically known for dub techno, and I want more freedom.

Another more recent moniker you’ve used is Suum Cuique.

Suum Cuique is a very targeted production project because it’s just analog and noise. And it is basically me trying to create tracks without sequencing or without a computer involved, but even without MIDI or without sequencing or without sync. It’s basically me using machines to create noise. And that’s my favorite stuff to do, really, but it’s kind of the most difficult as well. You know, it’s the most difficult technically and the most difficult to listen to. It’s an acquired taste, I suppose. I was surprised that they got issued in the first place. The label was like, “Yeah, we really want to put this out,” and I’m like, “Well, it’s your risk.” But I really love it. It’s actually some of my favorite solo material, that stuff.

The way I work is always a bit strange, but my rule number one has always been if I go into the studio, I press record and then I turn everything on. I’m recording everything. So Suum Cuique is a combination of pieces which are between 12 and one years old. A lot of it is the ends of tracks. Where I’ve spent four or five hours making a piece of music, and then when I press “stop” — after I press stop is better than the whole four or five hours that came before it. Just pressing “stop,” the machines are still going, and it sounds way better than everything I’d spent all my time on. So I just edit that bit out. Or it will be where I’ve left the machines running, I’ve gone out, I’ve come back in, and they’re doing something that I could never create myself and, obviously I’m recording it, so then I can just edit that out again later.

I look to it in the same with Demdike Stare where we literally like to compose for atmosphere and mood. It’s the same thing with Suum Cuique. The machines are just trying to create an emotion, in a way. Whether or not it’s dread or fear or angst or whatever, it’s about creating a mood and atmosphere, and when you hear a certain piece of music, you can feel the mood inherent in it. The Suum Cuique stuff is basically accidental, where I’ll wire triggers into CVs and I’ll wire gates into the wrong place. It’s about doing stuff wrong and just trying to create noises. Because one of the things that really inspired me early on in producing music, especially with hardware, is just turning the machines on, sometimes some of them make noises that you just can’t make when they’re on. You know, the machines almost pop or whatever when you turn them on, and I’m really inspired by that.

I don’t ever want to sit down and spend seven hours creating a noise. I think it’s a waste of time. It’s more important to capture a moment of time and space then it is to sit down and become technically perfect at doing something. I don’t know how to use most of [my gear] properly. I really like that because it’s like it keeps a kind of naïveté, which I think is the most important thing in music. You need that human aspect of not knowing what you’re doing. My favorite types of music, like jungle, have got this naïveté inherent in it. It’s kids not knowing what they’re doing, trying to produce music with technology they don’t know how to use, and they do it so wrong that it’s so right. I think the longer you produce music or you’re involved in it, it’s really hard to keep that naïveté. Because you learn more and you’re searching more.

The first Suum Cuique was on Young Americans, a label on which the only other releases have been Daphne Oram archival recordings. Was there an archival aspect to that record?

Yeah, it was completely archived. Most of it was at least six years old. It was just culled from, like, my old DAT tapes that I was recording years and years ago when I was trying to emulate other producers. I used to spend months and months trying to sound like Basic Channel, just trying to capture what they were doing and trying to make those sounds, but I never really nailed it. But in the process, I recorded a bunch of stuff which, five or six years later, is sounding really good. It’s funny how you evolve and how you can go back and listen to your own stuff, and you realize that what sounded just like rubbish at the time sounds really good now.

When did you move to Berlin? How do you reestablish your studio elsewhere?

I’ve been in Berlin for two years and three months now, or something like that, and I still haven’t got my mixing desk here because it’s too big. But I won’t ever sell it and I won’t ever buy another mixing desk because that is the most important piece of kit I’ve ever bought in my life. And I hope in the next three weeks it’s going to be here. But there’s still quite a lot of equipment in England because I could only afford to ship my records and most of my rack equipment and that stuff over. So my big synthesizers are in England, and my mixing desk. I’ve got a very different studio now, to be honest. I’m really obsessed with filters and compressors now. That’s just what I’m obsessed with, and I really like playing around with stuff which doesn’t actually make any noise. I used to be really obsessed with synthesizers and drum machines and delay units, but now I’m all about pieces of kit that don’t actually make noise but they shed noise, you know? Is that odd? I don’t understand them, so that’s really good. [laughs]

Do you find yourself hooking things back up in different ways and becoming more interested in the things that you hadn’t considered as much before?

Every partner I’ve ever worked with, whether it’s Sean or Gary or Andy Stott, they think I’m crazy, but every six or seven weeks I’ll just rewire everything. I’ll take everything apart, move it all, and put it all back in a completely different configuration. And I’ve learned now the genius of patchbays, because they enable you to move everything without physically moving it. My studio in England — I used to have a very big space — and people just used to give me equipment because I had this space. So I had a couple of drum kits, like 15 drum machines. I had so much equipment it’s unbelievable. Anything you can imagine — guitars, whatever. It was all there.

The last time I rewired in that big space, I was using close to 700 wires, and it took four days to rewire my studio. You become less productive, even though I enjoy it so much. I’m like, “Well, I just spent four days rewiring my studio.” And when Demdike Stare started, time started to become an issue because we play so many shows as Demdike Stare. And plus Sean lives in Manchester and I live in Berlin. So I’m glad that I discovered patchbays because that saves me a hell of a lot of physical effort. But also enables me to rewire pretty much instantly. Wiring it up wrong is one of the best things you can ever do. I’m not a musician; I never have been. I don’t sit down and play things. I have keyboards, but I’ve never played them. I just wire them up and get other things to play them. I won’t ever consider myself a musician; I just consider myself a producer, which is kind of a new phenomenon, isn’t it? In the last kind of 25 years, really.

There has been a lot made about the physical location of where you were making music having an effect on the music itself. The environment of Northern England, the surroundings, its history. So how has that changed in Berlin?

I really miss it. But I’m over there a lot anyway. Every two weeks I’m back in the north of England. You carry it with you, in a way. I see a very different side of Berlin because I don’t go out. I don’t hang around with other producers, I don’t go to Berghain all the time. I don’t go clubbing. When I’m home, I’m at home. I really want to be relaxed, and I want to eat food, see my girlfriend, do all the normal stuff. But it’s a really cold city in a way, Berlin. It’s a competitive city. Probably in a very different way than New York or London, but it’s cold. I draw inspiration at that as well. If something makes me angry, I can write music; if something makes me sad, I can write music; if something makes me happy, I can try and write music. It doesn’t always work, but it’s much better with negative emotions. Berlin’s really good for that, because there’s a lot of broken dreams in this city. There’s a lot of people moving here for the wrong reasons — or without a plan.

I think you should use where you come from as part of your makeup. It’s what makes you you. It’s what makes your music unique. A lot of people sound the same these days, and the more honest I was with myself where I came from, the better the music became. It’s the same place that Sam Shackleton comes from; it’s the same place Marcus Intalex comes from; me and Sean come from there. But I started looking at it going, “It’s so bloody influential in the way that we work.” I go to the countryside there and it sounds — when I’m there it feels like the Demdike Stare music sounds, and I’m think, “Yeah, we’ve been honest with ourselves.” And that’s what makes us sound like us.

I know that you make music on the road. Does this end up mostly as sketches that you then try to finish when you get home into your studio, or do you find that you’re able to compose full tracks?

You see, like, those two words “able to” is one letter short of Ableton, and Ableton, for me, was one of the most genius things ever invented. The simple fact that it allows you to do it wherever you are. I’m not afraid of digital. I’m not afraid of analog. If you work with music, you can work in however way suits you best. I’m not a snob in it. I think if you work purely with Ableton, you work purely with Ableton. But there’s a lot of people who just work with Ableton and you can tell. You can just tell. It’s like, “Come on, mate, put a bit of effort in, you know?”

So I work in a very funny way with it. I sample basically every synthesizer that I own, and I’ll create my own version of that synthesizer in Ableton. Every compressor I own, I’ll try and do the same thing. I’ll try and create the character within Ableton, the reverbs within Ableton. So when I’m traveling on the road, I’m using a virtual version of my studio. And then if I don’t like the sound of it, even if it’s been purely in Ableton, I can port it out. It’s easy enough for me to port it out and record it back in. Some tracks we do are pure Ableton. Some tracks we do are pure hardware; some are mixed. Being on the road so much, you have to have an outlet. Me and Sean both carry field recorders with us and we travel with quite a lot of hardware for the shows anyway, so if we need to, you know — we’ve recorded sound checks before and made tracks straight off that.
Sean really nails it; he says, “You’ve got to be into what you’re doing. You’ve got to be like a 16-year-old kid.” If you’re into the music and you’re into the records and you’re into the equipment, it makes it so much easier to produce music anywhere and everywhere. You’ve got to be enthusiastic about it. In Berlin there are so many producers and they’re so serious. It’s the same in the graphic design world. Any of these freelance, creative worlds, people gravitate here because it’s cheap to live.

In a way, you’re sort of Modern Love’s main man. By my count, you’ve been a part of 30 of the label’s catalogue numbers, which accounts for about 32 percent.

I’ve never looked at it like that. [laughs]

It’s pretty staggering. What’s your relationship with this label and with this group of people?

We’re all best friends, and have been since before the label started. I used to work in the music industry for distribution. I worked in record shops, and I know quite a lot about the business and about labels and how they run. How stuff’s licensed and how people get paid, and the divisions of payment and the divisions of labor and all that kind of, you know, angle of the music business. So, working with friends — in some ways can be very difficult and in other ways can be completely genius. For Modern Love, it’s just completely genius.

I’m allowed 100-percent creative control to produce whatever kind of music I want, and the label shields me from the negative sides of the music industry that I hated when I was working with them. That’s probably the best way to say it. The label looks after the really awful stuff that they’re going to deal with, and I’m just allowed to do what I want. If they want to put a release out, they’ll put a release out. I don’t argue with them. Never have, never will. And I don’t think I’ll ever release for anyone else. Why should I? I hear so many horror stories about labels and artists, and it’s just like, “Oh man, I don’t need that in my life.”

For the first year with Demdike Stare the offers coming in were phenomenal. You start getting contracts though, and they’re like 20 pages, and I’m like, “Oh, forget it. Forget it. Creative control? Yeah, right.” We have everything. The label just helps us decide on the music. The funny thing with Modern Love is that every single act on Modern Love — and I speak for everyone when I say this — it’s like the label is part of the act. Modern Love is part of Demdike Stare. They’re a member of Demdike Stare, the people who work for the label. They’re part of it. They’re part of Andy Stott; they’re part of Rainer Veil; they’re part of Jack Dice. It’s just like they’re part of the band, you know? The funny thing is that if we do a Modern Love showcase, which we tend to do quite a lot of, but the label’s not there, I’m like, “Well, you’re only really getting half the story here.” [laughs]

What is it about collaboration that you’ve enjoyed? What do you pull out of each person that you collaborate with, and what do they pull out of you?

I work so much better in collaboration. Sean will ask me to do something which I would never, ever think of. He’ll ask me, “You know, I think we should do an African kind of sounding track. Can you put, like, a fuzzy guitar in it?” And I’ll be like, “What? Really?” And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah. It really needs a fuzzy guitar.” And it will be amazing. He comes with that creative impulse, which I kind of lose out on because I get really bored once I know how to use a sampler. But he’s probably the best music researcher I’ve ever known in my life, and he’ll just play me something that will blow me away. And I’ll be like, “This should be out now, and it’s 25 years old!” And he’s like, “Yeah, but this is what we should be doing!”

Same thing with Gary — they’re kind of similar, in a way, but both Gary and Sean are kind of technically inept. Sean’s learning quite a lot at the moment, but they were both, when we first started working together, like, scratching their heads. Gary’ll tell me to do something, you know, in Pendle Coven, and the same thing with Demdike Stare. Sean will just come in with, “Can you do this? Can you do that?” And I wouldn’t think about doing it because I already know how to do it. But he tells me how to do it out of context, approaching it with a naïveté which I don’t have anymore. It’s like buying new equipment; I’ll buy a new piece of kit when I don’t understand it and I think, “Yeah, I could probably use that on quite a few sessions.” At the moment I’m using a Vermona Retroverb. I’ve had it for a year, and I can’t get it to do the same thing twice. It’s amazing. It’s just wild. You’ve got to have it recorded all the time because you’ll have it really good, and you’ll accidentally knock it or something, and it’s gone. It’s doing something completely different.

You make an incredible amount of music. What keeps you going?

You don’t know the half of it. The label sent me an email at the end of last year. And they’ll be like, “Yeah, you’ve sent us 280 tracks this year.” I was like, “What?” [laughs] Because I’m just allowed to do it, you know? It’s funny; there’s a few things you won’t know about because I do still release music anonymously. In this day and age hype has got a lot to do with music. And that hype is super accelerated these days. You’ve got a two-week window to sell a piece of music, and then you’re yesterday’s news.

I’ve come around to the mode of thinking that I don’t buy music every week. I don’t buy new music. I have to wait until it sinks in, and then I’ll be like, “Right, this is actually really good. I’m going to buy it.” There are a few producers out there that I’ll buy on sight. But there’s a lot of stuff I want. So every now and again I’ll release a few 12s or whatever anonymously. So the music stands on its own. And it’s not associated with any kind of hype. It doesn’t come through the same channels; it just comes out somewhere else, and if that does really well, that gives me a bit of confidence.

Who are these producers that you still buy on sight?

Well, the really obvious things, like Mika Vainio. The music’s so difficult but so amazing. It’s not just to do with producers, it’s to do with curators, as well. I think Bill Kouligas and PAN is just next level. The way it looks and how they push people to listen. You don’t get the same record twice. That’s such a difficult thing to do, and they do it with style. You should be pushing people, taking them further down the road. You shouldn’t keep delivering the same thing. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s really lazy, and I think you’re squandering—you know, if you do get a chance to be able to release music, and you do get hyped up initially, then if you come in doing the same thing, I think you’re squandering what you’re doing. You’re squandering your creative side, you know? I much more appreciate these labels that really try to push people into other areas of listening. Because music is endless. Inspiration and influence is endless. Whether you fall backwards, forwards, sideways, it doesn’t matter, you know? There’s a bottomless pit of amazing music.

With a lot of the music that you make you’re sampling records from all around the world, but what do you find distinctly British about your music? And how does that play into some of your other projects as Millie or on HATE?

Well, Millie and HATE — they’re inherently British, in a way because they’re influenced purely through jungle, hardcore, and a little bit of American bass music. You can’t really forget Miami bass or the later aspects of hip-hop and all that came through. Me and Sean are really big hip-hop fans. Sean’s a mega hip-hop fan, but I’m a big hip-hop fan. But we can’t do a hip-hop record because we’re not from America. Do you know what I mean? There’s really good British hip-hop, but me and Sean have a bit of an issue where we’re like, “Well, we’re coming from this kind of thing, so we should try and reflect on that and not concentrate on something which we’re not ever going to be as good at doing.” We really want to do a hip-hop record. The Testpressings series gives us the freedom to do something more like that, but we can’t because we’ll never be as good as, like, Mobb Deep or MF Doom or something. It’s like we just can’t do it. So we normally end up coming out a little more British-sounding.

Since you mentioned it, what was the driving idea behind Testpressings?

Again, it’s just utter freedom, but also to take us away from an album format and to change up what we’re doing. It would’ve been so easy and so predictable to put out another Demdike Stare album. And believe me, we’ve got the material; we could have just put out another record that sounded like a little bit more of an evolution of Elemental. But then the label said, “Look, I really think you should rethink your strategy. You both—” they’d heard some of the stuff that we were heading towards, and were like, “I think you should concentrate on this and just start having more freedom to just put a record out when you want.” So we can just put out a completely different record every time. We’re coming at it from a different route now. There are snippets of it in the live show at the moment because we’ve evolved our live show to be 90 percent improvised. We finally nailed a format which we’re really happy with and we enjoy it every time we do it. Because it’s really difficult to do that when a) you’re not performers and b) you just play electronic music. But, you know, we’ve kind of nailed that now, and hopefully the Testpressings are going to kind of reflect it a bit more.

So there’s no plans to do a CD compilation of the Testpressings stuff?

No, that’s too predictable. We don’t want to do it anymore; we really want to buck the trend in some ways if we can. But the necessity of being in modern music is sales. And vinyl, as most of the producers will tell you that run vinyl labels, they’re really not trying to sell 10,000 copies of a record. The break even point’s pretty tight now. You don’t make a lot of money on it. So CDs really help you back up. And America and Japan are probably the biggest markets for that kind of thing now, CDs. You know, in Europe people really don’t care about CDs anymore. We don’t sell that many here. But America’s still a really good market. So it’s a good way of shoring up your finances and allowing the label to continue putting another record out, you know, because that’s generally what you’re supposed to do. Release a record, you make a bit of money, you plow it back in, and you can put another record out. It gives you the freedom. So CDs are a necessity. But I think I have 20 CDs in my whole life.

How do you blur the lines between your DJing and productions? You’ve said before that much of the Demdike Stare mixtapes try to mix the two up, and when playing out you’ll sometimes blur the lines between DJing and playing live.

It’s kind of what we do, really. But that’s the whole thing about the Demdike mixes — half the tracks on the mixes are edits of those tracks which we’ve found, and that’s the old way of working for Demdike. Because we got a little worried about the sampling aspect, so a couple of years ago we decided to really stop sampling. When we found samples we really wanted, we recreated them in our own way. It’s the inspiration and the mood we’re looking for in the end. And to keep sampling in such a way in this day and age of intellectual property bullshit, then you’re just going to end up cutting your own career short if you’re not careful. So the mixtapes are an outlet to be able to do that now.

I think there’s too much of a division between live and DJing, when pretty much, you’ll have artist turning up with a laptop and pressing the spacebar and tweaking around with a few effects. And then you’ll have a DJ turning up with a laptop and pressing the spacebar and tweaking around with a few effects. It’s just in the eye of the beholder. This is why we evolved the Demdike Stare live show, as well, since Sean’s strength is records. He’ll turn up and play me these records which will inspire us to then create music or sample it or whatever. So then we were like, “Well, the perfect live show will be for me to have a load of equipment to mess around with, and for Sean to have some records with a few effects to then do the same thing.” So then he’s playing records, I’m live-sampling them and looping them and layering them. We looked at the idea of the mixtape and the idea of how we work in the studio, and that’s what we now do with the live show. So it’s all intertwined, in a way.

We kind of had a little blip a year or so ago where I was trying to get Sean into doing something which he’s not that good at, and he was trying to get me to do something I’m not that good at. And then we were just like, “Oh, what are we doing? Stick to your strengths. I’ll stick to my strengths, you stick to yours, and let’s come back together in the middle.” And then we were just like, “Right, we’re on a roll again. We know where we are.” It’s just about exploring your own strengths and weaknesses. I think you have to do it, don’t you? The good thing for me and Sean is that we’ve known each other for 25 years so all that bullshit, first seven years of marriage thing, we’ve done that. I’ve slammed the phone down on him so many times… “Your music’s shit!” “Yeah, what you listen to is shit!” We’ve passed that stage so we can have these really easy conversations. Even if we come across little problems, they’re easy to deal with. We know where we are now, we know where we’re going.

What can you tell us about “Concealed,” which was commissioned for Unsound?

It’s a really difficult one to do. The most genius thing about it, aside from the Sinfonietta [Cracovia], is Michael England and his visuals. When I first saw the visuals that he was doing for the show, I was just like — it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen to go with music. But I can’t show you because Michael’s very protective about it, and what we decided, when we first started the project, was that the live show would have to be very special. And the reason for this is to keep people coming to the shows and not just to be turning up and seeing us play a bunch of tracks that we’ve already put out. With “Concealed,” the visuals are spectacular. And they’re the thing that I will tell people to turn up and check out.

Our music… most of it’s been released. Obviously they’re different versions with the Sinfonietta playing over the top, but the real key aspect to it all coming together is Michael’s visuals. They’re just astonishing, and you’re only ever going to see them at a show. It’s a really hard show to put together. It’s the most stressful thing me and Sean have ever done in our lives. I do not enjoy it. It gets really difficult working with a bunch of other musicians because they’re musicians and we’re not. [laughs] But when it comes off right, it’s amazing. It’s uplifting. And these astonishingly boutique visuals — you’ll never see them on a DVD. And it won’t be on YouTube. Michael’s 100 percent about that. If we see people filming, he’d basically stand up and deck them. He’d give them a right crack, smash their phone up or something. He doesn’t mess around.

But there is a reason for that: we really want people to come to the show, and you want to give people something unique for the show. You don’t just want to turn up and play a bunch of tracks. It gives people something to remember it by, whether it’s good or bad. You’ve got to have this experience to remember it instead of just like, “Yeah, it was alright.” I’ve said that so many times going out to shows. “Yeah, it was alright.” But if it’s really rubbish, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. If it was really good, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

How much of the Millie & Andrea material are collaborations?

I’ll be honest about it; the album’s like 80 percent Andy. We used to collaborate a lot, but I’ve been really busy working on other stuff, and Andy’s in the afterglow of his album, so he has a bit more time to write on it. We still do collaborate, but Andy’s much more open to footwork and to trap — I’ve missed a lot of that stuff. So I’m still old school where I’ll come with hardcore and jungle and UK garage and early dubstep. That’s kind of my thing, really. So yeah, it’s not 50/50. He’s done all the work. [laughter]

When I talked to Sean for the interview a couple of years ago, he said that when you guys play shows you really consider whether or not to take the show based on if there are any good record stores in town. Any recent record store highlights?

We played in Stockholm a few weeks ago, and went to Record Mania. I’ve been on this mailing list for some reason. I don’t know why, but I signed onto this mailing list for this shop in Sweden called Record Mania. I think it’s because they always have good jazz records in. We went there and we both spent a lot of money there. It’s a really good shop. I think they do auctions and eBay, but not with everything. There’s so much more in the shop than I’ve ever seen on the site. And obviously you can sit down and listen to it. And then there’s a shop which Bill Kouligas took me to in Berlin, but I’m not telling you about it because it’s way under the radar. It’s not even listed anywhere, and he took me there, and I was just like, “Whoa, this is amazing.” And I spent so much goddamn money there.

Is there anything recently that you found after looking for a long time that really broke the bank?

No. I mean there is, but it’s kind of not— it doesn’t matter how much money you spent on a record. Sean and I both agree that 90 percent of the time, the best records are the pound ones, the ones that cost nothing. The dollar records that people have forgotten about. I’ve spent a lot of money on some records. Sean’s done it for a lot longer than me. He’s a major, major collector. And often you get one chance to buy these records and that’s it. It’s gone then. Egisto Macchi is a very good example because this year, like, five records have come up on eBay that I’ve never even heard of. Like, no one’s ever even — they’re not on blogs, they’re not on Discogs, they’re not on eBay, they’ve never, ever come up before, and five albums by my favorite artist from, you know, the last 30 years. I’ve never even heard them, so we don’t know anything. I’ve been collecting records for 30 years, and I know nothing. [laughs]

With buying rare records, you’ve got to weigh up whether or not you can get it. Because you can go out right now and spend $500 on a Beatles record, but the thing is you can buy that same record for 500 dollars next week. You can buy them 20 different places for 500 dollars. Is it worth 500 dollars? Probably not. You can get a 10-dollar issue of that record, you know what I mean? But then, finding an Egisto Macchi you’ve never heard before that comes up and it’s going to cost you 200 euros, that’s kind of a snip, in a way. Because it might never, ever come up again.

Sean taught me not to think about the money because once you start paying 50 dollars for a record you’re like, “Whoa, man, I just spent 50 dollars on a record and I feel terrible.” Two years later, you’ve paid 50 dollars every week for a record, you don’t care. But then you spend 200 dollars on a record, and you’re like, “Oh, I just spend 200 dollars on a record.” Two years later, when you’re doing it every week or every month or whatever, you know… A friend of mine, he’s 60 years old, and he’s a Northern Soul collector. And he spends, like, five figures on records. Five figures! But he’ll buy one record a year because that’s the only one he needs. He’s like, “Look, I’ve saved up all year, and you’ve spent the same amount of money on 300 records that I’ve spent for one record. Because I’ve got all the other records.”

If you’re not a collector, it looks like a really weird thing to be doing, but it isn’t. It’s just what you’re into. Some people spend that on a meal. What I spend on a rare record—[people say] “You spent what? 200 euros on a record?!” It’s like, “Yeah, what did that meal cost you last night?” “Oh yeah, well — oh right, yeah.” The thing that reinforces us being able to do something like this is we really like putting money back into music. You earn money, you put it back into it. So the first ten years of producing music, easily six, seven years before I released a record, I was using cracked software because I couldn’t afford to buy the bloody software. The minute I was paid money for a record I was out buying software, or buying hardware. You’ve got to put it back in. I’m not afraid of saying it, because everybody uses cracked software. I know people more successful than me that still use cracked software.

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Little White Earbuds Presents D’Marc Cantu Wed, 04 Feb 2015 06:01:40 +0000 D'Marc-Cantu-1

D’Marc Cantu hit big with his mind-melting “No Control” single-sider for the inimitable Crème Organization label early on in 2007. Although this was his solo debut, he had in fact been releasing since 2005 as one half of 2AM/FM with Tadd Mullinix. The pair also collaborating with Melvin Oliphant under the X2 guise from 2006 as well. Cantu’s own releases follow a similar aesthetic to these two projects: jacking acid house and techno with an often brutalist approach to drum programming. It’s a formula that the Ann Arbor producer has found success with over two albums and nearly 20 twelve-inch releases, with no signs of slowing down. With his new alias Rival making its first appearance via a release on the Drone label (out now), LWE decided to find out what the producer’s plans are for the pseudonym and quiz him over his fruitful collaborations. He also knocked up an exclusive, hour long mix that delves into his love of jakbeat, house, and techno.

You initially got your break by coming to the attention of Tadd Mullinix and Melvin Oliphant. How did this happen? Were you sending them your tracks or had you met them through other avenues?

D’Marc Cantu: Tadd and I had become friends a few years earlier than the first 2AM/FM/X2 material was created. We met in 2000 when we both moved into a large house on campus. There were eight of us there and we were all musicians, artists, or students. By the time I met Melvin there was a sizable collection of music I had produced; this of course was four years later or so. During that whole time I was aggressively honing my production skills. Prior to moving into the house I was simply a drummer, playing local shows with friends. However Tadd had shown that you can be the whole band and maintain complete creative control.

Originally coming from more of a rock and alternative music background, how big was the shift into embracing electronic music? By that I mean did you feel there were any similarities in the approach and process to making the two and were there elements of the former that you felt you could use in making electronic music?

As I noted, it was refreshing being able to be the whole band. The production approach I used at the time was quiet experimental for me given since I didn’t have much gear. I started off using a Tascam 4-track and various instruments I had access to, like my own drums and bass. I would then use some of the pedals we had laying around the basement in our practice area and what other stuff I could get my hands on. This was all incorporated, without any syncing, to my PC. I had no knowledge of production software in 2000-2001, so I was using basic noise and drum programs to make extra sounds.

This was the basis of early work by Tadd and me. We used this basic noise idea to create various productions, all of which have never been released, with the exception of a live show we played on WCBN Ann Arbor around 2002-2003, if I remember correctly.

When you and Tadd started releasing as 2AM/FM were you also producing your own material then or did that come later?

I had been producing my own stuff during this time; it was a boot camp of sorts from 2000-2004. Learning about production from Tadd, Todd [Osborn], and a few other Ann Arbor freaks. Plus learning software from our mutual friend Rodger. They were really happy to teach and inform someone who was into it. So it was cool to have the backing of these guys.

Once we started on 2AM/FM I had already written tracks like “No Control” and “Set Free.” 2AM/FM, however, was where I really started to pickup on gear, post-production, and basic edits. Once my skill with hardware had reached a point where I was doing all of my own setups we produced more and more together, eventually leading to 2AM/FM Pt.1 and Pt.2.

Your first solo release came out on Crème Organization. Did you pitch your tracks to them or had they become aware of you through the 2AM/FM and X2 releases?

At the time I knew Tadd and Melvin had both worked with Crème but I had no idea who or what the label was about. Around 2005 Tadd had been playing some of my tracks out as well as for other producers/DJs. Melvin heard “No Control” and wanted it for the Crème Jak project he co-conceptualized with TLR of Crème. He played it for TLR and he loved it, and since then it has become one of the go to labels for releasing my rawer jacking dance cuts.

2014 was an incredibly prolific year for you, having nine releases across different formats: EPs, remixes, and collaborative projects. Is music a full time occupation for you and are you typically quite fast with completing tracks?

No, I work 40-50 hours a week at a local university as an IT admin and have since 2008. I do not play the amount of shows needed to work on music exclusively. It’s a dream for sure but just not within my grasp. Most producers at my level make 90% of their money from shows, so unless you’re gone for half of the year it’s impossible to make a living on it. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a homebody who works and makes music. It’s my passion, my therapy, and where I go to escape.

Although I don’t tour much I fully grasp the allure of the club. For me there’s no greater feeling than standing next to the booth when someone like JTC or Traxx drops an unreleased track of yours and you get to see the club go wild. All the hairs on the back of your neck that stand up when you’re in the studio jump out when you’re in the club. It’s quite a feeling.

I do tend to produce quite quickly as well. What I learned years ago and what I didn’t implement until 2008 or so was being able to say “it’s done.” A lot of people I know put so many layers of paint on their tracks that I think they lose sight of the track itself. It’s an effective tool to have, that voice that says stop going through 2,000 snare variations and be done with it. I think the biggest hurdle to any art is being happy with what you’ve created and sometimes you’re not until you see it, or hear it through someone else.

You recently announced that you will be using a new alias soon – Rival — with which you have set yourself certain parameters for the production and recording techniques. Do you have a set way that you usually work? Do you limit yourself to how much you allow yourself to tweak and finesse your tracks before finishing them?

Rival is different in concept but it’s not wildly different from my production history. What I mean is that is the concept behind Rival is the focus here. What I want to do is get back to my roots and force Rival to work within those confines. So the idea is simple, unedited dance tracks. One take. No edits. All gear. When working as Rival I feel like I’m walking up to a drum set again, playing and having my physical skill dictate the result.

Some call it lazy journalism, some call it being a beneficent interviewer, but every now and then we like to offer an artist to ask themselves a question and answer it. Go.

You’ve noted a separation between Rival and D’Marc Cantu as being gear only vs DAW style productions. Why the distinction with Rival?

With Rival I want to set limits. These limits allow me to work with what I have in front of me. Although my productions vary in method I can still fall back on those easy out habits. With Rival once it’s recorded its recorded; I clear the settings and start anew. I don’t have that freedom with my normal production style. I can always go back in some capacity and make changes. Rival is finite and as a result more compelling to me.

What can you tell us about the mix you put together for us?

I don’t DJ. I’ve been asked to for some time but have declined. Not that LWE asked for a DJ mix, however a track list was requested. My live sets are one offs — I don’t repeat live sets and I rarely pull tracks from those for release. That having been said the result is a one of a kind live set you may never hear again and of which has no track listing.

This poses a problem in situations like this and I would normally decline to do the mix because of it. I have instead decided to give it a go and this is the result, a DJ mix detailing coming tracks, projects past and present and songs by some of the producers who have influenced me the most. In short, a crash course in jakbeat.

What does the year ahead look like for D’Marc and Rival?

This month you will see a release on Drone, Decay; then in Feb Run-Out-Run will be releasing the Car Type EP. After that you can look forward to releases on Nation, MOS, Thema, and Sequencias. The most important releases for me this year will be 2AM/FM related, this year will see the strong return of JTC and me. Currently Signals and Nation have 2AM/FM EPs out. Later in the year will be our first album on Bopside, plus other projects. Rival will be appearing throughout 2015, dotted across a number of labels.

Download: LWE Presents D’Marc Cantu (57:32)


01. D’Marc Cantu, “Pages” [Nation*]
02. Alis, “Azimuth” (DMC Alternate Mix) [Don’t Be Afraid]
03. D’Marc Cantu, “Size and Shape” [Crème Organization]
04. D’Marc Cantu, “Decay” [Drone]
05. D’Marc Cantu, “The Key” [Sequencias]
06. Gstring, “Phase” (D’Marc Cantu Ghoul Remix) [Echovolt Records]
07. JTC, “Don’t Even Try It (The Beat)” [Spectral Sound]
08. D’Marc Cantu, “Try Me” [M>O>S Recordings]
09. 2AM/FM, “Desolate Cities” [M>O>S Recordings]
10. Brickwall Giant, “Rapid Expansion” [*]
11. Dona, “8th Point” (D’Marc Cantu Remix) [Points]
12. D’Marc Cantu, “Heater Ansatz” [*]
13. JTC, Psychedelic Mindtrip” [Crème Organization]
14. TNT, “New Love” [Marguerita Recordings]
15. 2AM/FM, “Motherfuckers Don’t Know” [Spectral Sound]
16. D’Marc Cantu, “Zip Drive No Data Saved” [Nation]
17. JTC, “Two Keys” [Spectral Sound]
18. Richard Fearless, “Gamma Ray” [Drone]
19. The Dirty Criminals, “Raiden” [Gigolo Records]
20. Da Goblinn, “Crazzy Outside” (D’Marc Cantu Four Voices Mix) [*]
21. 2AM/FM, “Release Yourself” [*]
22. D’Marc Cantu, “Car Type” [Run Out Run*]
23. Samaan, “Omissions” (D’Marc Cantu Remix) [One Electronica]
24. DVS1, “Confused” [Klockworks]
25. JTC, “Earth” [Killekill]
26. Secret Studio ft. D’Marc Cantu, “Home Bass” [Secret Studio Records]
27. Ricardo Tobar, “If I Love You” (D’Marc Cantu Remix) [Desire Records]
28. Aroy Dee, “Until the Music Dies” (D’Marc Cantu Remix) [M>O>S Recordings]
29. D’Marc Cantu, “2271” [One Electronica]
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased

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Jay Clarke, First Flight EP Mon, 02 Feb 2015 06:01:21 +0000 Cottrell_3L_905


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Aiming straight for the big rooms, Jay Clarke makes his debut on his own BLACKAXON label with four tracks of brooding yet highly polished menace. Drawing influence from the relatively insular confines of techno, Clarke weaves together a satisfyingly dramatic take on widescreen boom which sits squarely within the purist mold. “Vanishing Act” is a jaunty roller hinging on a jittery synth riff that brings to mind Robert Hood in a very bad mood. Motion is in constant play, with little breakdowns to build dynamic tension and a light use of filter effects that never stray into the garish territory. “The Black Lodge” is far darker — all hissing mechanization and hydraulic pump. A relatively restrained EQ job on the kick stops the track from becoming overbearing and, again, the clever use of understated effect work keeps a strong narrative drive as an insistent sub ducks around a carefully balanced mix.

The harshest is saved until last with Joe Farr’s remix of “The Chase,” built on a distorted, gabba-esque kick that would not have sounded out of place at some Rotterdam warehouse in 1995. However, the gabba comparisons end here as there is a positively orchestral vibe to the “The Chase” that sees a cacophony of well placed stabs and bleeps vying for attention against the grotty subterranean vibe; imagine a nightmarish chase through a fetid sewer pipe, albino alligator in hot pursuit. This is a remarkably assured debut, to be honest. And while it is relatively rare to find a new artist so well versed in cold calculated dance floor mechanics, Clarke’s history as a resident DJ for Void in London, myriad hours spent in the clubs, and all around borderline unhinged techno obsession, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. If you’re after well paced purist cuts, these fit the ticket admirably.

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Little White Earbuds Presents Olin Wed, 28 Jan 2015 06:01:17 +0000 As You Like It's February 7th event at Public Works, I finally took the opportunity to shine the spotlight on one of Chicago's local heroes. Olin also provided LWE with a stellar podcast that highlights both his wide ranging taste and exceptional ability to tie these threads together in an engaging way.]]> Olin-1

Somehow I knew this day would come. LWE was just finding its footing in the dance music press when I first met Jason Garden in 2008. We were both still on the outside of Chicago’s dance scene looking in. But when I first heard the Kansas native’s early productions and saw him spin at a small afterparty on Chicago’s west side, I had the sense someday he would contribute a podcast to LWE because he would earn it. Since reinventing himself under the Olin moniker, Garden’s sound has matured and widened greatly, both as a producer and DJ. He’s made clever, inventive techno and house tracks with dancers clearly in their cross-hairs, releasing on Discovery Recordings, God Particle, Wazi Wazi (with collaborator Savile), and even on my own label, Argot. He’s joined Smart Bar’s roster of resident DJs and founded the unique Slack residency for DJs (like Garden) who demonstrate the breadth of their taste and abilities over longer sets. And as of last year, he’s been a crucial cog in the show production machinery at Smart Bar, making sure every event goes so smoothly no one notices his fingerprints on it. In anticipation of his appearance at As You Like It’s February 7th event at Public Works, featuring the Black Madonna, Daniel Bell, Robag Wruhme, Sassmouth & Richard Korach, Bells & Whistles, and myself, I finally took the opportunity to shine the spotlight on one of Chicago’s local heroes. Olin also provided LWE with a stellar podcast that highlights both his wide ranging taste and exceptional ability to tie these threads together in an engaging way.

What was your musical background prior to producing electronic music? What spurred you to start producing? What came first, DJing or producing?

Jason Garden: I don’t have a musical background insomuch as I could rightly say I came from a musical household or “am a classically trained musician.” I was lucky enough to live in an area where music education was a required part of the public curriculum, so that was definitely a blessing. I played guitar for probably 10 years (and I guess in theory, still do), and was in half a dozen punk bands. We threw shows in Carey Skate Park in Hutchinson, Kansas. You know, usual Midwest rock kid stuff.

That said, dance music wasn’t popular (or really socially accepted) at all where I grew up. My first real experience with it was when I bought a disco complication from a gas station. It had the hits: Chic, “Le Freak,” Heatwave, “Boogie Nights,” Hues Corporation, “Rock The Boat.” Wore that little guy out. I had messed around with Fruity Loops in high school, but mostly as a way to make backing beats for my guitar stuff. I really had no idea what I was doing.

I first started “DJing” by basically being the only one in college who had a bunch of house party music on my computer for when my friends threw parties. Turns out, I really liked playing music for people and seeing everyone having a good time, so, like so many suburban white kids in 2004 or so, I laid down my guitars and started trying to DJ — very poorly and publicly on my college FM radio show, which was the only place that actually had turntables. So, to answer your question, I guess production came first, but DJing is definitely my One True Love and actually the reason I produce at all.

You’ve tackled a number of different styles, including a stint under the alias Thunderous Olympian. Can you take us through your musical history and what’s brought you to your current sound?

When I started DJing, I really had no idea what the hell was going on in electronic music. It was completely, 100% foreign to me, so I really had to just sort of feel my way through it (thanks, internet). Very few people in Kansas knew any more than I did, so it was quite a struggle, honestly. Dance music, even for me today, can be a tough road to hoe, in as much as there is just so goddamn much of it. So, you can imagine my frustration/terror as a 19-year-old trying to find my sea legs on that ocean.

As far as my musical history, it started with Daft Punk and blog house kind of stuff, because that was the most immediately available to me in 2004/5. I did that kind of stuff for a while, along with ghetto house and party music like that, as Thunderous Olympian. I realized over time that my true loyalties lay with some of the more minimal and subtle sounds that I had came across, so I reinvented (read: renamed, mercifully) myself and started down that road, which has been even more winding than I anticipated. Now I just listen to a lot of music and borrow ideas from that to create a mish-mash of things I like and hopefully other people like, too. Production is mostly a way for me to have (hopefully) cool tracks to play out when I DJ. Accordingly, my production style is at least as much a reflection of all the kinds of things I like to play out when I DJ as anything else.

You’re originally from Lawrence, KS, I believe. Was there any electronic scene there? What was it like coming into Chicago’s scene and getting involved here?

I’m actually from Hutchinson — Lawrence is where I went to college (Rock Chalk!). However, Lawrence was definitely the only one of the two that had any sort of electronic scene to speak of. Lawrence is a prototypical college town and, historically, an indie rock bastion of sorts. People love music there, but electronic music, at least when I was there, never seemed to resonate quite like it does in Chicago. There was an amazing weekly dance party that ran for seven years called NEON that was thrown by DJ Konsept (who was a very busy DJ here in Chicago after he left Kansas). That party, although not strictly electronic in terms of programming, really showed me that you could have parties where the foundation was simply a really good DJ (Konsept was, and still is, that in spades). So, armed with that exciting knowledge, I started to throw parties in bars or even in DIY punk venues (it was surprisingly easy to sell techno to the punk kids if you already knew them and they trusted you a little bit). I even made a “mixtape” series called “Techno Is Punk” to that end. Techno is pretty punk, when you get right down to it.

I moved to Chicago in 2008 and knew literally two people, Konsept and now Smart Bar resident, Chrissy (FKA Chrissy Murderbot). I was definitely amazed by how prevalent dance music was and how many options I had as a dancer and party-goer, but it took me a while to really figure out what was going on, especially with regard to underground parties. I’m a fairly cautious person sometimes, so I mostly hung back and tried to get the lay of the land before I approached anyone. I remember actually asking a person, who is now a good friend and party promoter here in Chicago, if I could come to the private afterparty she was throwing after a Smart Bar event. I knew was happening but wasn’t actually invited to it. It took some convincing. Seriously, I had to talk to her into it, and I understand why after having seen my fair share of completely wasted assholes show up and ruin a perfectly good afterparty, but she gave me the address and unwittingly let me put my foot in the door, so to speak. I remember going back to my apartment and putting all the booze I could find in a paper grocery bag so I didn’t show up empty handed. I was so excited. After that happened, things really got interesting, and I haven’t looked back since.

Remind me, what’s your title at Smart Bar now? What does that mean in a practical sense?

At this point, I’m sort of the jack-of-all-trades at Smart Bar. I’m the head of production down in the club but I also work in the office dealing with contracts and logistics. In a practical sense, it means I’m here a whole lot and am proud to be a part of such a historic and downright awesome place.

Prior to working at the club you used to throw underground parties with Marea Stamper, aka the Black Madonna. Tell us about that period and what you’ve learned about the club world since transitioning into working at a full time venue.

Marea and I met at Movement Festival in 2009 and were instantly close friends. When she moved back to Kentucky for a stint, we started to throw parties there and in the surrounding area with several other people who were very instrumental in the success of the events. We’d basically find an art gallery or something that looked like it needed money, offer them some cash to let us use the space, and then hit the streets to try and get a good mix of people there. Some of them were, to this day, the best parties I’ve ever been to, and some were kind of disasters. We also continued to throw smaller parties in Chicago that had the same ethos as those “abroad.” We’ve been Still Believing since.

The big difference between doing underground and parties in the club is just the scale, I would say. When you do underground events, there is a lot more to do because you have to do everything. Events at the club, there is usually less to do per event, but you have to do 20 a month (we’re open Wednesday-Sunday every week). The worlds themselves are mostly the same, though. I would say that the crowd at underground events is typically a little more esoteric in terms of taste, but that’s about the extent of it.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences now, and which artists have always been influences on your musical output?

Right now, I would say my biggest single influence is Traumprinz/Prince of Denmark/DJ Metatron. Dude is scary talented and only maybe even a real person. I’ll believe he’s real when he comes and plays a show at Smart Bar. I love how his sound transcends all of the different styles he tackles. He’s got such a great way with vocals that might not work in other settings or in the hands of other producers.

Speaking of Giegling guys, Kettenkarussell has also been a big influence for me. I came across a 3-hour live set from them in 2006, and then another one in 2008, and then the mix they did for LWE in 2008, and I was always completely amazed by how well they utilized minimalism and melody, even in the wake of the Great Capital M Minimal debacle of the early-to-mid 2000s. They were, at least until recently, very mysterious. They became kind of a white whale obsession for me, since they didn’t have a much of a web-presence. Those guys have always stuck to their guns and have made some of the most subtle and beautiful music I’ve come across. I finally got a line on them when I overheard Oskar Offermann and Edward chatting about them after a Smart Bar show last year. I grabbed their email from Oskar and after a few false starts, a friend and I finally had them come play a small private camping event here in Chicago, this summer. Not only were they absolutely delightful and genuine people, they exceeded every artistic expectation I had for them, which is really saying something.

Other notable influences include: Nile Rogers, Patrick Cowley, Metro Area, Audion, Dan Bell, Donnacha Costello, Basic Channel, FXHE Records, and everyone who has ever yelled “HOT MIX!!!” after I fucked up a mix while DJing. You know who you are.

A few of your releases have been collaborations with other producers. Who are your collaborators and how did you end up working with them? Any more collabs in your future?

Yes! Most recently, I’ve been working with Savile, who I also worked with on an EP for Nils Penner’s Wazi Wazi label. Savile and I started working when he approached me shortly after moving to Chicago and sent me a few tracks. I thought what I heard was great so we decided to hit the studio. We finished “Horizon,” the title track on the Wazi Wazi release, basically in a few hours, and had the rest of the EP plus a few tracks done shortly thereafter. We have a very good workflow and he’s a great engineer, so it works out nicely. We’ve also got a 12″ coming out on Argot shortly, called “Thanks, Karl” which is our thank you to one of the bouncers at Smart Bar who has also just been an enduring presence in the Chicago scene for decades now. Thanks, Karl!

I’ve also done a collaboration with a lesser known Chicago producer, Company Processing, who is really excellent by the way, and I hope we’ll hear more from him in the near future. We did a track called “Compton” for Discovery Recordings out of NYC a few years back, which, coincidentally featured a remix from Nils Penner of Wazi Wazi. The circle of life, y’all. I’ve got a few other collaborations in the works that are not done enough for me to not want to talk too much about them too much, but suffice it to say: bangers only.

What’s a musical trend you think the world would be better without? What’s a facet of electronic music you wish were more popular?

There are a lot of things I could nitpick about here, but I’ll stick to one sort of meta-pet peeve of mine: As someone who had ZERO access to dance music growing up, it really irks me when people who have been lucky enough to be around it their whole life write off certain styles or genres wholesale without any real attempt to listen to or understand those genres. Or, maybe more accurately, when people decide on a few genres they like and write everything else off as unnecessary, unimportant, uncool, or whatever.

It’s hard for me to understand people who really only like one or two current micro genres and can dismiss disco as a relic of the past — as something they could never be into for whatever reason. So many different types of music that could be accurately described as dance music are so important to me that it kind of seems offensive to me that so many are willing to write off so much, wholesale, based on presuppositions that are almost never accurate. If you’re a student of dance music, as I hope most DJs and producers are, you should go out of your way to experience as much of it as you can. You might be surprised by how things you may not even really like can inform your art.

My message: dance music is really fun if you let it be. There’s a lot of really bad stuff, but you’ll surprise yourself with the amount of good stuff you can find if you’re looking.

There seems to be some kind of expectation of Chicago’s producers to somehow incorporate the city’s famous past into their present sound. Do you feel that at all, and have you ever tried to link your music with the city’s musical heritage?

Not really, to be honest. I try to be eclectic, so I feel like there’s enough “Chicago” worming its way into my productions and DJing to not have to stress about not being “Chicago” enough. At the end of the day, I don’t really feel like it’s my job to sell anyone on the Chicago sound, mostly because there are so many people doing that so much better than I ever could, eg. Stripped & Chewed Records, The Black Madonna, the Queen! residents, and so, so many more awesome artists. Besides, my productions are probably at least as closely linked to the city’s industrial heritage as the house side of things — especially lately. As I mentioned, my production process is almost entirely based around making tracks for when I DJ, so it’s not something I really think about all that much in the moment.

Which of your currently released tracks or remixes do you feel most proud of, and why?

Hmmmmm… that’s tough. The one I’m most proud of as an artist is probably “Tomorrow’s News” on Argot. It was just a track that came out very naturally and is something I think I’ll be able to be proud of for quite some time. It’s very musical, which isn’t always my natural inclination as far as production goes. My favorite in terms of what works best when I DJ is probably my recent remix of Covio’s “Turkey” on Sassmouth’s label, God Particle. Definitely serves its purpose as well as any track I’ve ever done and fits perfectly with the kind of older English and American techno sounds that I’ve been playing out, lately.

In addition to working at Smart Bar you’ve recently started a series of parties called Deep Turnt. What can you tell us about the mission or ethos of Deep Turnt, and where do you want to take it?

Well, to be candid, “Deep Turnt” is something I tweeted once that I just thought was funny and then realized, in spite of its ridiculousness, kind of actually described my DJ style really well. Very 2015: DJ makes Pepé Bradock pun on Twitter, turns it into a made up genre, starts a party. I maybe should have just let it die, haha, but here we are. Anyway my definition would be: minimal, often dubby techno that is still a bit more uptempo and jacky. The first 30 minutes of the mix I did is stuff I would consider to be Deep Turnt, actually. For us (I do this event with Studio Casual), the mission is basically to do smaller, more intimate parties that push this kind of restrained party techno. The last one we did with Eric Cloutier was incredible, as was the first with Sassmouth — packed from pretty much open to close with people who were crazy into the music. We were so happy!

As someone with the word TECHNO tattooed on your arm it’s clear the genre means a lot to you. Can you put into words what makes it so important?

Well, connotatively, the TECHNO on my arm means something a little different from what the average informed LWE reader might think. In Kansas, literally every genre of electronic music was just called techno, because no one really thought about it enough to have a reason to parse it out much further. So, the TECHNO on my arm is meant to mean techno in that sense, and acts as a reminder of how lucky I am to have found my way to the place where I’m at from a starting point that seems to be light years away, as I look back on it. I do really love techno, in the traditional sense, though. So, it works out. It sounds like an exaggeration, but quite literally my whole life is devoted to dance music at this point. So, the TECHNO on my arm is as much in solidarity with those who are looking for the proverbial party in places where the party might not be so easy to find as anything else.

What were the last five records you bought? What coveted record do you have your eye on next?

Let me hop on Discogs real quick. So, the last 5 records I bought according to my Discogs are:

Donnacha Costello, Grape (only need two more in this series, finally!)
Jacek Sienkiwicz, Slope EP (always been a fan of Jacek)
Paranoid Jack, Slave Driver (Remixes)
Pop Up, 3
Garrett David, A New Room (Check this out! Gramaphone records here in Chicago recently (re)launched their label and it’s very good!)

As far as coveted new records, I’m patiently waiting for the new Brawther as well as the reissue of the amazing classic Bjorn Torske LP, Nedi Myra. As far as older stuff I’ve got my eye on, I’d actually really like to find a nice copy of Der Dritte Raum, Hale Bopp. Muscle trance all the way (another made up genre). I also need to get my ass in gear and grab as many of the Basic Channel reissues as possible. Oh, and copies of Oni Ayhun OAR003 and OAR004. I’ll just take one of all the good records, please.

What’s coming up from you in 2015?

A lot, hopefully! Still doing my residency, Slack, at Smart Bar, which focuses on eclectic DJs who will grace us with an extended set. Doing more Deep Turnt parties when we can. Hopefully DJing a lot, generally! As far as production, as you well know, Savile and I are excited to be releasing Thanks, Karl on Argot. I’m also finishing up an EP for Nite Owl Diner and another for the Detour records crew out of Pittsburgh (check out Detour 001 if you haven’t — killer). And then hopefully in between all that I’ll find some time to put the finishing touches on another EP for God Particle I’m working on. I’m excited to be so busy on the production side of things.

Download: LWE Presents Olin (78:05)


01. DJ Slip, “Untitled A” [Missle Records]
02. Brinkmann & Scanner, “Adria” [Force Inc. Music Works]
03. Restaurant Tracks, “Don’t Get Us Wrong!” [Cheap]
04. Covio, “Turkey” (Olin Remix) [God Particle]
05. Aerea Negrot, “All I Wanna Do” (Efdemin Remix) [BPitch Control]
06. Mr. G, “Zam Zam” [Phoenix G.]
07. Sleeparchive, “Track 4 (Recycled)” [Sleeparchive]
08. DJ Metal X, “Doomsday” [Djax-Up-Beats]
09. Yanu, “Poot” [Toolbox Tunes]
10. User, “Change Constant” [Organised Noise]
11. Traumprinz, “Intrinity” [Traumprinz]
12. Giovani & Mosler, “Untitled B (4)” [Giovani & Mosler]
13. Olin & Savile, “Thanks, Karl” (Olin Version) [Argot*]
14. Brian Aneurysm, “Das Element Des Menschen” (James T. Cotton Version) [Spectral Sound]
15. Sound Stream, “Love Jam “[Sound Stream]
16. UnknownmiX, “The Siren” (Losoul’s Hot Edit) [Playhouse]
17. Yello, “Lost Again” [Vertigo]
18. Azul Y Negro, “Mar Del La Tranquilidad” [Mercury]
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased

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Little White Earbuds Presents Ethyl & Flori Thu, 22 Jan 2015 06:01:12 +0000 EthylFlori1

Their names collectively may conjure a luxury toiletries brand from the depths of 1980s Britain, but their music certainly has a lot more panache than that might suggest. Tim Hopgood aka Ethyl and Jamie Taylor aka Flori have slowly but surely been climbing into our collective consciousness since 2009 with at times subtle but mostly stunning turns on labels like Freerange Recordings, Secretsundaze, Quintessentials, and Fear of Flying. Whether they’re dishing out deep house, acid house, or something a little harder, their productions always strike a well balanced and sure-footed precision. When the duo approached us with a sublime mix entirely made up of their own back catalog peppered with forthcoming and unreleased tracks we jumped at the chance to run it, hitting the guys up with a few questions in the process to find out more about the English DJ and production team.

Hi guys, how is everything going for you? Any ridiculous New Year’s resolutions to confess to?

Tim Hopgood: Hi, things are good thanks. 2015 has kicked off nicely, no resolutions as such, just trying to shift the bodyweight in cheese I ate over Christmas.

Jamie Taylor Not bad, cheers, good to be back in London after an indulgent Christmas break. No resolutions for me either. Life itself is pretty much an incessant self-improvement exercise. That’s enough for me.

They’re a bunch of ass anyway aren’t they? So how did the two of you first meet and where were each of you in your producer/DJ careers at the time?

JT: I think so. Eat well, stretch your limbs when you can and try not to drink heavily everyday. We met at university in Birmingham (where I failed all three of the aforementioned disciplines) on a Sound Engineering & Production course. I was playing out locally fairly regularly and putting on parties in my hometown, Wolverhampton. I was also heavily involved (and still am) in my folks’ party, Soul Underground. Production at that time was just a hobby but I probably learnt more about the process then, than during any other period. As the production side of the degree wasn’t up to much I was teaching myself in the main and getting invaluable advice via Tim.

TH: Yep, he’s wiser than his perceived years is our Jamie. I grew up just outside London and had been playing regularly in the capital. In fact a lot more regularly than I am now, sometimes three or four times a weekend. Doing the circuit so to speak and making up the numbers on the flyers. I enrolled at the University to add a bit of structure to what I was doing with music but the course itself was underwhelming. The biggest thing I took away from the course was the relationships I built and people I met, present company included.

How long was it before you started making music together and figured out that you had good studio chemistry?

JT: I think it was at the end of the first year or at the beginning of the second. That whole period, alas, is a bit of a haze.

TH: Sounds about right. We came from different angles musically; I came through UK garage and grime and through techno to the house music we began making, while Jamie came from the same formative UK garage years (that was almost a rite of passage for our generation) but had a strong US/soulful house leaning following that. Despite bringing different ideas to the table we seemed to agree on most things in the studio from the outset.

That rapport in music making as a team was obvious right from the start with The Trimley EP. As a production team what do each of you feel you bring to the table in terms of your particular influence from your tastes in music?

JT: Tim’s alluded to what influences were there when we first starting working together and I think they’ll always exist to some degree, probably due to how impressionable teenagers are. The pool that we draw influence from is larger than it has ever been. Old stuff that’s new to our ears but also so much new music leaves us quizzing each other as to how it’s been done. There’s so much good stuff being made and it’s hard not to be inspired by it. The Trilogy Tapes or Hessle Audio radio shows are good starting points.

And also what do you feel are your strengths when it comes to production?

TH: Jamie is the man with the hooks. He’s got a bit of an affinity with melody but if you heard some of the shit he sings you’d have to ask a few questions.

JT: Cheers, T. I’ve said this in other interviews but Tim’s the man for realizing ideas. If I’ve hit a brick wall, I think he enjoys the challenge of me describing/explaining something verbally and then getting as close as possible to painting that idea — even when he’s not entirely sure where I’m going with it. He’s the more patient man, too, which comes in handy if I start to become disillusioned with a track. We rarely take on the same roles on different projects.

I’m interested to know about your musical aliases, because they go together very well yet don’t seem to have anything to do with your actual names. Is there a story behind that?

JT: There’s no interesting subtext behind the name Flori I’m afraid. Our first EP had been signed and I had to decide on an alias sharpish. I thought it paired with Ethyl quite nicely and I suppose we both thought it would be humorous to see a couple of older ladies’ names on flyers. Tim’s story is far more fanciful.

TH: Tim’s story is never to be repeated.

Jamie, as a solo artist you’ve focused on your own releases while Tim, you’ve notched up a lot of remixes. Are you both planning on taking on that other role as well?

JT: If the right remix comes up, I’ll take it on. I do prefer working on original material though.

TH: I actually like the constraints remixes put on you, which might be why I’ve ended up doing more of them. That’s probably why I’ve leaned heavily on collaborating too. I need to not get bogged down with the very small decisions that don’t contribute to the finished result. There’s also the element of not wanting to waste someone else’s time or let them down and I find that gives the process more direction and purpose. For me, making music can be such a cathartic process that when I’m making music on my own I can feel satisfied with being comparatively unproductive, getting absorbed in sound design without actually doing something useful with the result. I’ve got lots of my own music in various primitive stages that I’d like to see the light of day eventually, but having never had a solo release I feel there’s more pressure on the first one to be truly coherent and not a series of sketches or nascent ideas.

There’s an occasional Scandinavian theme through your track titles. Is this coincidence or is there some kind of Scando message you’d like to push to the public?

TH: We wrote “Malmö” and “København” after a Scandinavian trip. Even though the two tracks ended up being split up we wrote them concurrently based on our impressions of the two cities.

JT: Just doing our bit for Anglo-Scandinavian relations.

What have each of you been working on lately on your own and as Ethyl & Flori?

JT: This last year has been very much collaboratively focused. We moved in to the same house early last year and we got all of our records and studio equipment into one large room. It’s a great space for making and playing records so it’s where we spend most of our time. We do a weekly radio show from there too, which will soon be going out on the new Leeds based KMAH station (Wednesdays 8-10pm). We’re launching our own imprint, E&F Records, so that’s been taking up a lot our time recently. The label will be an outlet for our own productions. The first one is called Lion City and should drop in March of this year.

TH: We released The Last Ninja on our friends’ Ben (BLM) and Jay Massive’s Fear of Flying imprint at the tail end of last year and are following that up with a release on the affiliated Sudden Drop label, due at the end of this month. It’s a three tracker from the pair of us entitled Transcripts. When it came to looking for outlets for our music we were certainly guilty of not seeing the wood for the trees. While I send Ben music of ours/mine regularly, never (until recently) explicitly with the understanding it’s for him to consider bringing out. Both are great labels that we have a lot of time for and I think it makes sense for friends to be supporting each other especially being in the same city.

And at the risk of sounding contradictory, we’ve also got a release with Berlin’s Aim pencilled in, complete with an Edward remix. Jamie’s released on Aim before and Tristen, who runs the label, is a top boy, so I’ve got no reservations that it’s also a good home for our music.

Could you see an Ethyl & Flori album in the future or would you prefer to release in an EP format?

TH: We’ve certainly talked about it. I think our productions to date have been too disparate to warrant an album. Hopefully people can hear the common thread that runs throughout our releases regardless of the slight genre meandering we tend to do. If we were to do an album I’d want there to be a definite message, something we were trying to communicate and a flow throughout, not merely a selection of club tracks with a downtempo and beatless reprise thrown in to tick the album box. I’ve heard several albums from dance music producers that could quite easily be brought out as a couple of EPs but there seems to be a conscious decision to adopt the LP format to garner the PR that goes along with it. Call me a cynic.

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together?

JT: I don’t think either of us has ever included one of our own productions in a studio mix. This mix puts paid to that.

TH: It’s a special mix for us because, yeah, we rarely play our own stuff out. I’m really pleased with our recent output and we wanted to put it a selection of it in one place so people could get a handle on where we are and also a little nod to where we’ve come from.

In a slightly new turn for these features, we’ve decided to ask music producers and DJs what their big predictions are for the year ahead? What do the stars hold for 2015?

TH: More of a hope than a prediction, can Europe stop being so angry and fascist? Musically, I think we’re both on the same page in both wishing the following a successful year and also looking forward to the combined output of
Nummer, a couple of a French guys living in London, one of them works at my favourite record store, Kristina. Everything they’ve touched has been proper. Also BLM/Skew, Voiski, and Tom Dicicco to name a small few. On the label front, Details Sound, UMHS, Forbidden Planet, Fifth Wall, Nous, meandyou and Antinote.

JT: But seriously, UKIP have just hit 20% in the polls. What the fuck is going on?

Download: LWE Presents Ethyl & Flori (77:33)

01. Ethyl & Flori, “Untitled” [E&F Records*]
02. Ethyl & Flori, Untitled [Aim*]
03. Flori, “Within Reason” [secretsundaze]
04. Ethyl, “Untitled” [*]
05. Flori, Untitled [*]
06. Ethyl & Flori, “Swimming” [E&F Records*]
07. Ethyl & Flori, “The Last Ninja” [Fear of Flying]
08. Ethyl & Flori, “Shorthand” [Sudden Drop*]
09. Ethyl & Flori, “Shelter” (Rolando Remix) [secretsundaze]
10. Sagittarius A, “Omega Point” (Material Object Remix) (Ethyl Edit) [*]
11. Ethyl & Flori, “Lion City Dub 2″ [E&F Records*]
12. Ethyl & Huxley, “Reflexions” (Aybee Remix) [Tsuba Records]
13. Flori, “Frosty Leo” (Dorisburg Cave Jam Mix) [Aim]
14. Ethyl & Flori, “Untitled” [E&F Records*]
15. Ethyl & Flori, Shelter (Beat Mix) [*]
16. Ethyl, “Syncopate” [Contrast Wax*]
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased

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Steve Mizek’s Year In Dance Music 2014 Tue, 20 Jan 2015 06:01:15 +0000 TOP

Traditionally, LWE publishes its year-end list as December is still wrapping up and records continue filing into shops, albeit at a slower rate. With how much ground we aimed to cover, it was always done in a rush and competed for time with podcast competitions. Since we’ve relaxed the pace of publishing, however, putting together a year-end chart seems more appropriate with 2014 fully in the rear-view mirror and with the benefit of more free time. Think of this untraditional “list” as not late but properly marinated.

Although we received thousands of promos in 2014, I’ve decided to focus this piece almost exclusively on records I purchased or received on vinyl. I’ve gone this route because that was how I interacted the most with dance music in 2014: as a DJ and a record collector rather than a reviewer and journalist. Those roles still heavily informed what I liked and returned to throughout the year, but the experience of playing records for audiences — whether for clubs full of people or just my friends during a night in — was the ultimate guide. In kind, I’ve included a few records not from 2014 that I feel were just as important as 12″s that were. Rather than ranking them, I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by artist name. And, in breach of my usual critical ethics, I’ve included a few records I brought into this world. They were both a huge part of how I spent the year and contained tracks that never failed to dazzle me and those for whom I played them. I suspect you’ll forgive me.


John Barera & Will Martin, Graceless
[Dolly] (buy)

I’ve been predicting big things from John since the first B-Tracks record made its way to my doorstep a few years ago. Seemingly a born collaborator, Barera truly hits his stride with production partner (and now former roommate) Will Martin in the studio. These guys draw upon a deep love for dance music, incredible musical chemistry, and a thorough knowledge of how to translate ideas into tunes at a rate and quality level that’s a bit jaw dropping. Their debut album, Graceless, came together very quickly but feels like something that’s been slaved over. It contains one of my favorite tracks of the year, “It’s Alright,” along with highlights like “Freefall,” “Afterthought,” and “Patience” that have been peppered throughout my sets this year. Perhaps most excitingly, this duo is just getting started.



The Black Madonna, “Exodus”
[Stripped & Chewed]
The Black Madonna, “Venus Requiem”
[The Nite Owl Diner] (buy)

Both at home and abroad, 2014 was the year of Marge (our pet name for Marea Stamper, the Black Madonna). Although she released one record entirely new material, the timely reissue of two early favorites, “Exodus” and “We Don’t Need No Music (Thank You, Rahaan)” on Goodby To All This meant her music was always in circulation in clubs around the world. “Exodus” in particular seemed like a 2014 anthem, its beautifully jangling piano chords and swelling choir vocals ringing out regularly sets by a diverse range of DJs and receiving the same feverish response each time. One time stands out in particular: watching Frankfurt’s Museum für Angewandte Kunst go completely off the hinges during the Give Love Back Boiler Room party, with Gerd Janson and Ata grinning widely as they played it to an appreciative crowd. All of this is why I’ve been shocked to not see “Exodus” recognized in any year-end lists this year. Only “Stay” from the Black Madonna’s Nite Owl Diner record got a nod from NPR. Even then I always found myself flipping the record over for “Venus Requiem,” which nicely flips an old West End boogie record in true Black Madonna style. It was a record I played early in the evening and when the lights were coming up at the end, always smiling but bittersweetly in remembrance of a queen whose light was snuffed out too soon. Like DJ Sprinkles before her, the Black Madonna reminds us that we bring our darkness with us into the club and working through that pain with friends while dancing is part of what makes house and dance music more broadly so powerful.


Community Corporation, “Subterranean Limestone”
[Argot] (buy)

I was truly overjoyed for the chance to work with Taylor Hawkins, the young Detroit producer behind the Community Corporation moniker. The way he flips Midwest techno and house conventions on their head is inspiring to me, especially in an era where rote copycats get undue levels of attention. His Aquifer EP for Argot was a leap forward from The Salt Mines, his cassette album on Crisis Urbana released in early 2014, moving further from his touchstones in favor of his own sound. Although I tucked it on the B-side, “Subterranean Limestone” was the clear dance floor favorite of the record — a track whose weirdness could barely disguise the killer groove lurking at its core. I took great pleasure watching as audiences threw their bodies into the riff and broke out of the little shuffles that often passes for dancing (of which I’m equally guilty). With tricks like this up his sleeves, Community Corporation is definitely a name to watch for in the coming years.


Doms & Deykers, “Fonts For The People”
[3024] (buy)

I already wrote about this for SPIN, but I don’t mind expressing my appreciation again here. Combining Steffi and Martyn’s best features is great at a conceptual level, and “Fonts For the People” from their Doms & Deykers EP is proof that it’s even better on wax.



Doubt, “Captain Hours”
[Mistress Recordings] (buy)
Doubt, “Crater Iunstat”
[Disposable Commodities] (buy)

It’s always exciting when a veteran producer manages to completely reinvent themselves years into their their career and receive more acclaim the second time around. Such was the case with Doubt, the Minneapolis-based producer formerly known as Eidolon, who was reintroduced to the world by DVS1 and his Mistress Recordings (which had a fantastic year, as well). I can’t say I loved everything with Doubt’s name on it, but I kept reaching for the tracks that hit the right spot for me. “Captain Hours” from the Remember Fono EP managed to be dark, sinister, and unusual but also playable, beautifully textured, exciting, and versatile. I mixed it into house to segway into my harder material and from techno to pull things back from more pounding tracks. “Crater Iunstat” from his Chaos Om Vision album (split into two EPs on Disposable Commodities) was more focused, but its grinding groove and murky piano line and vocals gave it the spirit of techno with plenty of room to breath — a rarity in an era full of mindlessly banging industrial techno. More producers should take note of Doubt’s restraint. If 2015 goes like 2014, more records from the MN veteran will make sure they have to.


Roman Flügel, Happiness Is Happening
[Dial] (buy)

I was a latecomer to Roman Flügel’s latest album, somehow, in spite of an almost overwhelming media blitz. Thankfully, I didn’t let my hype allergies keep me from digging in eventually, and I loved what I found. Taking a step back from dance floor utility to incorporate more of his influences made Happiness Is Happening a deeply satisfying listen all the way through — a vast improvement on his Fatty Folders LP, in my opinion. Flügel is one of the most talented producers in the game, able to create beauty across a range of thoughtful, dance floor-adjacent styles without repeating himself. I struggle to pick favorites for fear of missing one, but the track I return to most is the deliberate, stalking loveliness of “Wilkie,” which feels halfway between krautrock and synth pop, but played for a plugged-in 2014 crowd. Happiness Is Happening is simply a stunning album I’m very glad to have in my collection.


Fort Romeau, “I Knew”
[Live At Robert Johnson] (buy)

I didn’t pick up as many Live At Robert Johnson releases this year as in the past, but Fort Romeau’s contribution to the label ensured I had to own at least one. Its standout, “I Know,” is hardly the most original tune but it never failed to notch up the excitement in a DJ set. Spinning around that silky vocal sample in endless repetitions ensured total hypnosis; and with its galumphing bass line pushing dancers into the whirlwind, the track seemed unstoppable in spite of its sub-six-minute runtime. A perfect example of how working within established frameworks can be yield exceptional results if done right.


Golden Donna, II
[100% Silk] (buy)

The one non-vinyl release on this list is Golden Donna’s second album, which I received digitally from its maker, Joel Shanahan. I’m thoroughly grateful that I received it at all, as most 100% Silk releases pass me by without so much as a wave — doubly so for their tape releases, which this was. I spilled considerable digital ink praising it earlier this year so I won’t be as indulgent this time, but suffice it to say that II was a lovely album I returned to many times in 2014. Same could be said for his equally unfairly overlooked self-titled Auscultation album.


Gunnar Haslam/Acid Jesus, Overcomplete/Radium
[Naïf] (buy)

Phillip Sollmann seems to delight in creating unusual combinations for releases on his low-key Naïf label, and at first blush its only 2014 record seemed to really push it. What was a throbbing acid track from young hotshot Gunnar Haslam doing paired with an Acid Jesus classic? As it turned out, these were natural bedfellows that could find themselves played by any number of DJs in the same or different sets. I found myself giving dancers some delightful heartburn in the middle of a house set with “Overcomplete,” then later banging things into place with “Radium.” It was a record I kept in my bag for gigs that could go any number of ways, and I’m glad I did. Gunnar still has a ways to go before he’s knee high to Flugel’s many accomplishments, but on this record (and his excellent second LP, Mirrors and Copulation) one gets the sense he’s steadily working towards it.


Eamon Harkin, “Back Down”
[Argot] (buy)

If my Chicago squad had a motto in 2014, it was definitely “bangers only.” This silly phrase meant to tease each other into bringing the heat with every track quite often included the A side of Eamon Harkin’s single for Argot. Few tracks I came into contact his year felt as massive, had the level of kinetic energy or club swallowing bass, or generally whipped people into frenzy quite like this one. Gunnar Haslam told me it was almost always one of the highlights of his sets both in America and abroad. Perhaps because it feels like the embodiment of anger/frustration welling up and then being released, a cathartic sensation that never lapses into brutality (like a lot of contemporary techno) and in fact gets quite tender during its piano-led breakdown. To be frank, I was a bit surprised “Back Down” didn’t take off as a “hit,” but I’m no less glad that Eamon gifted it to Argot.


Luv Jam, “Quip22″ (Prosumer Remix)
[Phonica White] (buy)

Prosumer’s reputation as one of the world’s best DJs continues to grow with each year, yet staying quite production-wise has caused many to forget what an awesome producer he is, as well. Despite reminding DJs in a big way in 2013 thanks to his remix for Murat Tepeli, I feel like his 2014 remixes unfortunately went under the radar. It’s kind of hard to believe, especially in the case of his rather inventive take on Luv Jam’s “Quip22.” Half atmospheric house work out, half nasty beatdown, it has delicate details to pour over at home and the toolish, rhythmic energy to turn heads in DJ sets. If you thought Prosumer’s remit ended at nostalgic house (shame on you, first of all), check this remix and then check your head.


Martyn, “Vancouver” (Head High Remix)
[3024] (buy)

Rene Pawlowitz had an excellent year while wearing his Head High hat. I didn’t feel his Megatrap 2×12″ was as essential as many of my peers did, but it did show off a bit more of what he could do with the guise. I preferred his skull crushing remix of Martyn’s 2008 classic “Vancouver,” which gave the lurching dubstep(?) tune new life as a 90s breakbeat-inspired banger. For me, the appeal was in the delicious use of space between the crunchy hits, somewhat seems subtle until you’re on the dance floor and it causes you to flex an extra time per measure. An unexpected body blow doesn’t sound so amazing until you’re actually on the receiving end. This arrived at the beginning 2014 and only left my bag after I found myself competing with other DJs to see who would play it first in a night. I’m sure it will be brought back into rotation for years to come.


Anthony Naples, “Perro”
[The Trilogy Tapes] (buy)

I must confess, I haven’t always been sold on Anthony Naples’ output. It’s often enjoyable, but on the releases since his Mister Saturday Night debut, the layer of weirdness embedded in his productions somehow left me feeling alienated. His Zipacon EP for The Trilogy Tapes, however, grabbed me from front to back — a gorgeous fine-tuning of his aesthetic that felt mature and self-assured. Mostly I dropped the needle on “Perro,” a delightful deep house number that married function and form like lifelong sweethearts. His percussion rattles just so, a satisfying set of metal and wooden textures that are the perfect framework for the purring synth line gently floating through. Naples has a penchant for surprises in the latter half of his tracks, and the insistent arpeggio arriving late in “Perro” makes me want to close my eyes and wig out like Stevie Wonder. I’ll go so far as to say this is Naples’ best work to date and the bar by which I’ll be evaluating his forthcoming debut album.


New Musik, “Warp” (Ilo Edit)
[Pleasure International Exports] (buy)

This one is definitely not new, having been originally released back in 2011. A timely re-press, however, proved how equally germane this Ilo edit remains. Brought to my attention by Gerd Janson near the end of his excellent LWE podcast, it’s beauty that takes its time getting into the meat of the tune (four minutes) and works wonders all the same. The chorus is so evocative and emotional without saying much at all, mostly because of how nicely it intersects with the gossamer thin melodies wafting around. That a whole other deep house melody appears towards the end only elevates the track, taking it beyond an edit in my mind. I remain woefully unschooled in the music of British new wavers New Musik, but if anything makes me want to dig into their discography, this is it.


Gerald Norton, “Gwen Stacy (Mix 2)”
[Sly Fox Records]

I’m a bit ignorant about Sly Fox Records and Gerald Norton, except that they’re from Detroit. I also know the record “Gwen Stacy (Mix 2)” is on is part of a series of various artists releases called Corndogs with, you guessed it, a corndog stamped on the white label. What’s clear is, this track is a killer. Long, skating hi-hats, moody organ chords, and pitched down vocals read as pretty standard on paper, but the combination works perfectly when it’s working its way into your skull. Perhaps it’s the slightly seedy vibe that permeates the whole track that gives it a certain magnetism, aided by the bragging sung vocals and somewhat muddy mix of the track. You feel like you’ve stumbled into a private situation that’s too compelling to look away. I must admit, this track is challenging in its short run-time (4:31) and slow tempo (116ish bpm), yet somehow I found ways to include this in all kinds of sets. Dancers appreciated the effort. Perhaps the next Corndogs will be just as tasty.


Oskar Offermann & Edward, Verses
[Thema] (buy)

Another 2013 release I discovered in 2014, Verses is the kind of EP I love to find in shops: four solid tracks of varying moods at domestic prices. So far it’s been a fixture of my record bag, because I’ll always find something from it that fits my mood and my other track selections. Dark, droney and strange? “What Have We Become” is up first. Drowsy yet optimistic deep house? I’m pulling “Paranoid” (and pitching it up a ton). Constantly evolving, looped out house? Take your pick from the sharper “Sunrise” or its more mellow “Underwater Dub.” You really can’t lose. It’s a good thing these guys often tour together, as it means there’s a chance we’ll see more records of this quality in the future.


Palms Trax, “Forever” (Galcher Lustwerk Remix)
[Lobster Theremin] (buy)

There are a whole bunch of buzz-heavy names on this one. Thankfully the cut in question is so simple and effective you can put aside hype weariness and just dig in. Galcher Lustwerk’s remix of “Forever” feels like a Fred P track that was erroneously erased during a particularly stoned session. I would be happy to listen to him mess with titular vocal for hours, especially if the pillowy chords beneath it came along for the ride. If you’ve ever seen the old German television show “Space Night,” you’ll agree that this remix should be beamed back in time so it could perfectly soundtrack visuals of outer space, geographic beauties, and dated motion graphics. I’ve warmed up many a dance floor with this one and watched with pleasure as the brave few souls breaking the proverbial ice get happily lost in its depth.


Pittsburgh Track Authority, Enter The Machines
[Pittsburgh Tracks] (buy)

Given how much ground the Pittsburgh trio have covered in the last couple years, I had no doubt they could put together a solid album without repeating themselves. Sure enough, Enter The Machine Age sounds like the dissertation of three long time scholars of dance music, flecked with influences but ultimately the group’s own distillation of history. It’s nice to hear them tackle pumping disco house (“Broader Disco”), entrancing desert techno (“Visions of Serengeti”), and languid house (“Debonair”) with equal levels of competence, and even nodding to their past in drum n’ bass inna dub techno style (“Genta”). Given how prolific PTA tend to be I’m sure we’ll be hearing another album from them soon, but the bar is set high on Enter The Machine Age.


John Roberts, “Ausio”
[Dial] (buy)

Another track I’ve waxed lyrical about elsewhere at length. It just blows me away how much John Roberts is able to best himself every time he puts out a record. Given how unique his sound is, he’s really his own competition and “Ausio” (like every damn record before it) reminds us how seriously he takes that. Easily my favorite release of 2015.


Royer, Tough Questions EP
[Tasteful Nudes] (buy)

I feel lucky to have brought this record to the world, because it’s given me so much pleasure personally and I knew it would do the same for everyone else who heard it. It’s my most played record of 2014 thanks to the versatility and quality of its four tracks. I have a particular weakness for the title track and its effortless, swaying melodies. It feels like a shared smile between friends, the acknowledgment of how good we’re lucky enough to have it. And when I hear people like Move D or Moomin play it (the latter being a noted influence), I know other people get that sense as well. Given this, I’m slightly surprised this didn’t creep into more EOY charts. Thankfully, I know this record will maintain its appeal well after year end charts are long forgotten. That’s even better.


RVDS, “Moon On Milky Way”
[Smallville Records] (buy)

For reasons I can’t quite figure out, I’d never been able to get into RVDS records until this one came along. I’d stopped checking them entirely, and had my DJing partner Savile not played the 2013-released title track in a B2B session I would have remained hopelessly ignorant. Now I play this one relentlessly, grinning as its rollercoaster arpeggio wheels around and around the unusually timed bass line. The percussion is just as tricky but made for getting down. And it keeps evolving, growing grotty and strangely textured, adding new melodies and playful vamps, and locking listeners into its every move no matter how small. Definitely a big part of my 2014 and, to be honest, the first Smallville record I’ve picked up in some time.


Sandman & Riverside ft. Jeremy Ellis, “Into Your Story” (Kai Alcé DISTINCTIVE Vocal Remix)
[FFWD] (buy)

No track brought the soul to 2014 quite like this essential remix by Kai Alcé. Yes, it’s actually from 2013 and the original is from 2011, but its impact on 2014 was unmissable. I heard it pretty much everywhere I partied last year and it sounded good in every scenario. What I didn’t realize until I sat down to write about it is how much of the original is present in this remix: the beautiful synth synths; the cheerful bells leads dancing floating throughout like fireflies; Jeremy Ellis’s achingly wonderful vocals (although smartly doubled throughout the remix). Truly the genius of this remix is the bass line, a rambunctious and memorable set of plunging descents down the scale, all played by fellow Atlantan, Stefan Ringer. Heard next to the gently rejiggered drums, it gives the track a subtle Latin step that’s rare in modern dance music and ever more rarely done well. I have to give it up to Tom Cox for making sure the world knew what this song was after we heard it at least a dozen times during Movement Festival weekend in Detroit. It’s been an essential part of my collection since.


Sfire, Sfire
[Cocktail d’Amore Music]

It’s with no small amount of pride that I note LWE’s small role in the eventual release of Sfire’s debut record. Originally debuted way back in 2010 in John Roberts’ LWE podcast, this Sfire project by Jeffrey Sfire and Samuel Long eventually made it into the hands of the Discodromo guys who run Cocktail d’Amore and finally was released on vinyl at the tail end of 2013. It was surely worth the wait, not least because both tracks feel like they’re lifted out of a time capsule first buried in 1984. Both tracks go beyond the standard synth pop in almost everywhere, from the delightful synth timbres to Jeffrey’s and Samuel’s spot on vocal performances, all laid out with a patience that ekes every bit of feeling and dance floor utility from each bar. “Sfire 2″ has a resigned cheerfulness that grows slightly sinister as the tune unfolds, while “Sfire 3″ is a delicious dirge that never quite stays on the same path for long. Pretty much every DJ I surrounded myself with in 2014 owned a copy, and for once that made me glad. It’s an instant classic.



Chase Smith, Falling Out EP
[The Harmony Society] (buy)
Chase Smith, Stay
[Argot] (buy)

I’m dead serious when I say Chase Smith is one of the most underrated producers in America right now. The Pittsburgh-based artist released four excellent records in 2014 and no one seemed to notice outside the U.S. To be fair, one was released by R-Zone (R-Zone 09), which needlessly deprives its artists of the credit they deserve. The rest, and in particular his EP for the Harmony Society and his single for Argot, should have been unavoidable. The Falling Out EP extends the obviousness of Smith’s exceptional artistry in four directions, from the dub-flecked, heart racing title track to the old school piano banger “Still Further,” glistening 90s house via “Vaporub” and the Carpenter-esque synth thriller “Sun In Winter.” And though I’m obviously biased, I thought “Stay” featuring Karl and Lauren Ojanpa was of of the best songs release this year. I so rarely hear tunes that have this much character, this much feeling to them — the obvious effort and sweat of the people who created it. I guess a disco ballad can only win over so many people, even if it slayed virtually everyone I saw hear it. “27 Summers” had the same effect with all its ravey goodness. I had someone ask me what it was nearly every time I played it. Chase is too busy putting all his personality in his tunes to have a wacky online presence or hobnob with on-trend artists, and it shows. It’s just a shame more writers haven’t made the time to pick up on it.


SVN & Porn Sword Tobacco, “Fresh II”
[Acido Records] (buy)

Most times I find Acido releases to be too esoteric for my DJing needs and not quite home listening enough to justify a vinyl purchase. My House Is Not Your House, the label’s penultimate release of 2014, pulled me in — mostly because I can’t get enough of Henrik Jonsson (also of Jonsson/Alter), who collaborates with SVN under his Porn Sword Tobacco guise on two tracks. “Fresh II” feels as loose, relaxed, and planned as a trip down the Lazy River: a bathwater warm soak in the azure tones Jonsson is known for, spread across glistening synths, soft focus bass lines, and gently splaying leads. Given its swift tempo, this is one I’d reach for when winding a set down or perhaps the beginning of an after hours. Either way, it’s an excellent headspace in which to put your audience. And any tune that gets me to defy my instincts about a label and shell out for vinyl rates highly in my book.


Tristen, Pictures From Above
[Aim] (buy)

The first time I reviewed a record by Tristen in 2009 I wrote, “I have high hopes that future cuts will leave ‘Along These Strings’ [the song being reviewed] feeling amateurish.” I’m so happy to report that my prediction has come true on Tristen’s debut for his own Aim label. Which still a hushed affair, the tracks on his Pictures From Above tick all the right boxes for me — the result of considerable effort without feeling overworked or fussy. In a lot of ways they’re the ideal Aim tunes, offering something understated and hypnotic but also tender and rooted in house music. “Streets Of” feels comfortably alone with its thoughts, its odd yet perfectly arrangement of dipping pads and dripping organ chords having a kind of hushed satisfaction to them. The title track is more direct but equally immersive, a series of stitched in synth leads tracing the edges of delicate pads with hints of a Chicago-born progression churning in the middle. I enjoy warming up a room with tracks this inviting, but I love to play them at home just as much. Excellent cozy music that indeed shows great growth from Tristen.


The Working Elite, “Freedom”
[Terre Des Pommes] (buy)

The last track is also one I’ve profiled in SPIN. Suffice it to say, there’s a really lovely, emotive house sound that emanates from Frankfurt where Terre Des Pommes is based (although the Working Elite themselves are half Frankfurter, half Berliner), and I adore it. It’s exemplified on this track, which shows no signs of being self-conscious about its overflow of melody and feelings. That’s just the way I like it — I get goosebumps almost every time I play it.

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Little White Earbuds Presents Cottam Mon, 08 Dec 2014 06:01:28 +0000 Interview-Cottam-1

Some time towards the end of 2009, with the effects of slow-mo house and an on-going run of impressive re-edits circulating in the clubs, a quick-fire triple blast of colored, un-credited 12″s appeared in record stores, being quickly snapped up by those with nimble and discerning ears. The etching on the vinyl runout gave the only clue as to who the producer might be or what the label was called: Cottam. The mystery of this edit-loving beatmaker deepened when the already elusive Story label issued its third release with more these R&B-soaked goodies on its two sides. Before long it was confirmed this was also Cottam; and although fans had to wait another full year before receiving more frequent output from the producer, they were more than sated by his outstanding productions. With demand rising, we started hearing more from Paul Cottam on an array of labels and original productions started to take the place of his earlier sample and edit-based output. Though his incredible talent has continued to spawn highly regarded EPs and impeccable DJ sets and mixes, the producer has been battling against multiple sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with in 2009. The neurological condition has many adverse effects, like having trouble standing, doing physical work, and even concentrating. Despite this, Paul shows no signs of this affecting his creative output, as his incredible DJ mix he approached us with can attests. LWE promptly jumped on the chance to feature the mix and put some questions to the producer at the same time.

Hi Paul, what have you been up to lately?

Paul Cottam: I’ve been playing a lot of Lego. My speciality is vehicles which can drive on the road, fly, and also seem to always house storage for a motorbike. I’ve been watching lots of antiques shows, Lego films/programs, and Horrid Henry. I have also not been sleeping or eating much, but that’s how I keep my sound mind and youthful good looks.

So you have a new label up and running, Ruff Draft. Can you tell us a bit about the label and what sort of musical aesthetic you are pushing with it?

Yeah, I started the label to release music that I would like to play, or hear played, in clubs from other artists. I was being sent and hearing quite a lot of unreleased music that I would love to have been able to play in clubs so I thought why not. It’s not about a style of music, just if it makes me have that feeling of “I’d love to play this out.” I have been toying with the idea for quite a while now. I’m still very new to this, so I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m enjoying learning though and I realize it may be some time before I get halfway competent at it.

In terms of the artists you are releasing on there, are these friends? Demos you’ve received? Where are you sourcing your releases?

Most of the releases are from people who have sent me the music. Usually people I have either met in the past or people I “know” through social media. In one case someone got in contact with me as their label had quite a full schedule and he must have thought, “These tracks need releasing” and passed them on to me with the artist’s contact details.

You’ve already put out four releases on Ruff Draft just this year. Can we expect this release rate to continue? Anything forthcoming Ruff Draft issues you can tell us about?

Five releases now :0) I’m not sure if the rate will continue. It really depends on the music I find or am sent and if it’s possible to release. There is one more release ready to go, Ruff Draft 6, but after that one there is nothing solid. There are a couple of things brewing but I don’t like saying anything until things are done and dusted. Wouldn’t want to tempt fate and all that.

When you first came out with your self-titled label, your tracks were largely based around edits, Afrobeat and soul. This still plays a part in some of your releases, though to my ears, it sounds like when you’re not sampling or editing you opt for a darker house/techno sound. Can you tell us about this transition and how you started out making tracks?

It’s a long story and my brain isn’t very good at summarizing these days. Here we go: I started making music with a friend in his studio around 18 years ago. It was all done on hardware apart from the sequencing and was kind of hard techno. I was a proper techno head for many, many years. From about 2000, I had stopped working with him and didn’t really make much apart from the odd session with close friends. This was mainly having fun and learning I guess.

2008 came along and I actually had a computer. Bought a couple of bits, soundcard, controller, and keyboard, and then proceeded to learn how to make music on a computer, mainly through trial and error but also with the odd pointer from friends. Obviously, as you can tell from my early stuff, it was all either sample-based, reworks or re-edits. I was buying a lot of soul, hip-hop and afro, hence the first releases being the way they are. Hahahaha, told you my brain can’t summarize these days. Anyway, my tracks are getting a bit darker house/techno because it’s taken me a while to teach myself the ways of making music on a computer. I would have been making more of that in the past if I knew how. The sample based/edits thing was a good place to start in my learning of the ways of making music on a computer.

Given that when you first started releasing there was no name on your records, do you have any other musical aliases?

Nope. I’m too dim and scatty for any of that.

Through some of your edits and remixes you’ve made great use of vocals. Is working with a vocalist something you’d like to do in your original productions?

I would love to use a vocalist. I did start plans with a young lady with a fantastic voice but the creative process of song writing proved too much for me at the time. Ill health kind of escalated at that time and with everything that was happening I kind of put it on a back burner. I have never revisited the idea as I came to the conclusion that I ain’t a proper producer and I’d probably make a mess of it.

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?

The mix was done during a period of feeling “unwell,” hence the title when I gave it you, “A Downer On A Dark Dank Day.” I just had a blast and the music kind of reflects, in my head, how I was feeling at the time.

What can we expect from you over the next year?

I don’t really know to be honest. I don’t really plan things out. You can be sure there’ll be a shed load more DJ mixes. Production wise, who knows…

Download: LWE Presents Cottam (101:23)


01. Keith Worthy, “Interlude 1″ [Aesthetic Audio]
02. Huerco S., “Untitled A1″ [Proibito]
03. JBSF, “Untitled B2″ [Ferrispark]
04. S Olbricht, “Veuns” [Lobster Theremin]
05. Royer, “Sunday Yellow” (Independence Ave Orchestra Sermon mix)
[Material Image]
06. Clendon Toblerone, “Mystics Of Thaquitz” [Cos_Mos]
07. DJ Qu, “Soma” [Strength Music Recordings]
08. Q.V., “Social Music” [Phonica White]
09. Spoiled Drama, “The Sun In Your Face” (Route 8 Remix) [Nous]
10. Community Corporation, “Crystalis” [Argot]
11. Zennor, “Storms” [The Trilogy Tapes]
12. S Olbricht, “Fi” [Lobster Theramin]
13. Q.V., “Change” [Phonica White]
14. Henry Giles, “Exploring 0 S 102 0″ [Public Possession]
15. Steve Murphy, “What Did You Just Give Me” [Basement Floor Records]
16. Community Corporation, “Subterranean Limestone” [Argot]
17. DJ Qu, “Untitled (Hi-Life)” [Strength Music Recordings]
18. 45 ACP, “Hold On” [Dog In The Night Records]
19. TWINS, “Creepstick (Believe The Floor)” [Clan Destine Traxx]
20. Voiceless, “Charivari” [Ill Rivers]
21. Barnt, “Under His Own Name But Also As Sir” [Hinge Finger]
22. Tzusing, “No Primordial State” [L.I.E.S.]
23. Life’s Track, “Stone” [Cos_Mos]

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