Little was known of Spatial when he emerged at the tail end of 2008 with a two track 10″ of considerable heft on the freshly minted Infrasonics label. The debut gathered about it a considerable amount of superlatives and left a palpable air of expectation hanging over the unknown producer’s next move. Over the next two years the London-based Spatial issued only three further excursions on what we now assumed was his own Infrasonics label, the tracks similarly inhabiting a musical meeting space where the dub-wrought end of techno rubbed shoulders with the brittle flex of garage and dubstep. With interest having rapidly mounted for the producer, subsequent releases appeared for a variety of labels, including Well Rounded, Stillcold, and WNCL Recordings. LWE connected with Spatial to discuss mathematics, his new project Primitives, remixing techno legend Kirk Degiorgio, and to find out what’s in store for his Infrasonics label. He also put together an absurdly fine mix for our 168th exclusive podcast, ranging from early 90s hallucinatory electronics to roughened bass and techno maneuvers, peppered with a few of his own select dubs.
Download LWE Podcast 168: Spatial (82:55)
01. Air Liquide, “Tanz der Lemminge 2” [Blue]
02. Neneh Cherry & Afrika Baby Bam, “Nina” [*]
03. Kirk Degiorgio presents SambaTek, “Babilônia” (Rick Wilhite Remix)
[Far Out Recordings]
04. youAND:THEMACHINES, “Perception” [Ornaments]
05. Garnica, “Put Your Hands” [Galaktika Records]
06. Forward Strategy Group, “Clean Neckline” [Perc Trax]
07. 2ndSun, “Neglect” [*]
08. Kamikaze Space Programme, “Leyland Daf 45” [WNCL Recordings]
09. Head High, “Burning” (Keep Calm Mix) [Power House]
10. Spatial, “Right Now” [WNCL Recordings]
11. Jimmy Edgar, “Strike” [Ultramajic]
12. Foamo, “Without You” [Rinse]
13. Spatial, “Dub” [*]
14. DJ Haus, “Cold As Ice” [Hot Haus Recs]
15. Kirk Degiorgio, “Dendê” (Spatial Remix) [Far Out Recordings*]
16. West Norwood Cassette Library, “Bubble” [Hypercolour*]
17. Kirk Degiorgio, “Borel” (Jonas Kopp “My Vision of Samba” Remix)
[Far Out Recordings]
18. MMM, “Que Barbaro” [MMM]
19. Octa Push, “Ali Dom feat. Braima Galissa” [Senseless Records]
20. Spatial, “Dub” [*]
* denotes tracks which, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased
Track names can be a tedious thing to come up with all the time. Tell us about your numerical titles and whether there is a deeper, mathematical theory behind them.
Spatial: Nothing quite so smart as a mathematical theory but there is a system, though it’s not really important. The numeric titles fitted the minimal design aesthetic of the label and the desire for people to focus on the material itself. I’ve been naming the tracks on the EPs for other labels. Partly because the context is very different and partly because it just makes it easier when working with other people!
So you kind of appeared from out of the ether with your first releases. How long had you been producing for and was the plan from the beginning to release on your own label or was it a result of having shopped your material around first?
Sporadically since around 2000, but for a long time it was largely for my own amusement with various life events interjecting and causing breaks. It took much longer to get a decent, working setup back then as the price of equipment was pretty prohibitive. Looking back now it seems so quaint to only have had a single compressor which is extremely limited compared to today’s software environments. That said, I really enjoy working within the limitations of systems. I think you can definitely have too much choice.
I made a concerted effort to align my various influences and produce something contextual (and aimed at sound systems) in around 2007. I created a nice website and used that as the basis for distributing the project. Sam Shackleton was into what I sent him and passed it on to Joe Muggs, leading to the demo being reviewed in Wire magazine. That put me in a strong position to speak to distributors and Cargo were very helpful. I liked the idea of having full control over all aspects of the presentation of the release and Bill Dolan (formerly at Cargo) helped to facilitate that.
What was your musical background before this? What were the key things or records that lead you to want to start producing?
I’m largely self taught and got into producing through raves, decks & records and eventually getting a sampler. That musical interest then spiraled out to the furthest reaches of music and sonic experiments. I gained some exposure to the establishment avant garde when I went back to study later on. In many ways, the distinct paths that the Spatial project currently follows — the more functional dance aspects and leftfield experiments — directly mirror Colin Dale’s seminal show on Kiss FM in the nineties, with his Abstrakt Dance and Outer Limits sections. Another analogy would be the main space and the back room and the early Lost parties. You had people like the Fat Cat records guys, or Aphex, The Black Dogs guys or Mixmaster Morris spinning some wonderfully obscure sounds. I mean they were pushing it, not playing all coffee table ambient. As well as the aforementioned techno, plus Colin Dale/Favours Knowledge night, Hackney Hardcore via Labyrinth at the 4Aces club in Dalston and raves in the South East London were equally important. As were local events like The Slammer, a Gravesend institution that drew punters far and wide.
The Electronic Listening series on Warp sparked an interesting exploration away from the functional material and helped to sparked further interest in the outer limits. The Wire magazine helped guide me on that journey.
In more recent times, dubstep at FWD>> got me back into raves, and Rinse which is obviously hugely influential and their rise to prominence — the latest evolution in London’s (ex)pirate radio landscape. I’ve experienced a few of London’s musical cultural booms and there was a palpable sense of change happening around that time which was very inspiring. This city gets more than its fair share of focus in a global sense but sometimes it just nails it.
You claimed the first four releases on your Infrasonics label, but have not released any new material on it yourself since then (2010). Do you have plans to release more yourself on the label or is it now a platform for other artists?
It certainly started as a platform for purely for my own material but I quickly realized I wanted more of a community vibe. I’ve worked with some great artists on the label, most of which have gone on to do extremely well. I want to focus on my own creative projects for now and I’m enjoying working with different labels, so I’ll continue doing that for the immediate future.
Your new project, Primitives, is a performance piece that makes use of home coded software to generate simple, geometric shapes. Can you tell us about devising this project and what you want to convey with it.
I’ve always been interested in projects working with light and sound, gradually becoming more immersed in that space. I’ve had quite a lot of exposure to Expanded Cinema and Intermedia in recent times and I wanted to extend the purely audio output. I was interested in creating something with a very direct connection between the visual and sonic components and keen to experiment with creative coding platforms. The project is conceived as a live intervention and I wanted to build the software I use to create that. The entropy in the system is part of the process. There’ll be documentation coming out later in the year on the Broken20 label.
Were the visuals created purely to reflect the music produced or did they in fact influence it as well?
The visuals drive the audio! It was conceived in that sense and I perform it from the back of the room, projecting forwards. It’s difficult to dictate the way your senses perceive the interplay but the confusion is deliberate. The performance is intense optically and sonically, a kind of sensory assault.
You recently played your first Primitives gig. How did the night go and how do you feel the crowd interacted with your performance?
The performance at Cafe OTO went really well and people seemed to enjoy the experience. It was part of a strong lineup of very good artists and I played last due to the sonic intensity of my work and difficult tech setup of the other acts, so I was fortunate to have a packed audience. I was really pleased with how well the projected visuals/light intervention dominated the blacked-out space, very stroboscopic, and the audio was suitably visceral.
It was very interesting speaking to people afterwards, gauging how they perceived the interaction between the shapes and the sound. The main thing I learned was to take a spare MIDI lead as the one I had crapped out in soundcheck, which left me scrambling around to find a replacement, not knowing if I could actually perform until the last minute. Typical!
Do you have a background in visual art or is this a new avenue for you?
It’s a new avenue, I have no background in it.
How did your remix for Kirk Degiorgio come about?
My friend Jack (who released as Gon on Infrasonics) started working with Far Out Records a while back and he mentioned they were doing another album with Kirk and were planning a remix project. I’m a huge fan of Kirk’s from the old As One material and his A.R.T label. Jack suggested me as a remixer and Kirk agreed. He gave me the stems for two tracks and I ended up using them both. They decided to put both remixes out; the second EP is due on the 15th July.
You’ve dipped your toes into a few different styles, with your EPs for Well Rounded and WNCL both exploring house and techno. How would you say your approach or attitude toward making music has changed over the past few years?
I guess the dance stuff has mostly become more functional, aimed more squarely at DJs (the exception probably being the Stillcold double 12″s) and I’m using the other projects, like Primitives, to explore more abstract domains.
That was a consequence of DJing out a lot more after the initial 10″ series and wanting more my own material for my sets. I’ve always liked variety in DJ sets and have never really felt constrained by genres which is why I enjoy the freedom around the UK-centric scene. The records just reflect that diversity. The Niche N Bump 12″ uses quite a lot of vocals in one of the tracks and I which I certainly wouldn’t have seen myself doing a few years back! I’m very happy with the results though.
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve done for us?
It’s mostly a selection of things that caught my ear lately. It starts of with an old track by Air Liquide from the early 90s that I dusted off recently and really enjoyed listening to again. I always find studio mixes start pretty pensive TBH — guess it’s just getting in the zone! It works up from there into some harder techy & ravey bits before ending up with a more global bass sound. There are a few cuts from the Kirk Degiorgio remix packs and a couple of my own dubs also.
What can we expect from Spatial over the next year?
The second Kirk Degiorgio remix is due on July 15th and the Primitives project will be coming on Broken20 later in the year. I’ll do another 12″ for WNCL plus there’s a couple more projects that I can’t mention just yet.