Wednesday, 5 May 2010
INTERVIEW: Rekordah Talks Astro:Dynamics
Without Bristol/London based beat maker Rekordah’s contribution to our mix series way back when I’m pretty sure Sonic Router would never have launched into the blogosphere the way that we did (sidenote: we’re fully aware that the ripple permeating our tiny corner of the internet doesn’t shout as loud as some strongholds but still, we’re outwardly proud of what we’ve put together over the past 15 months). His willingness to give something up to us gave us hope that there were artists out there willing to take the splash on an unknown blogspot page and he inspired us to aim higher in a way…So it’s a glorious feeling deep in our guts for us to be able to bring you news and the inside scoop on a project helmed by the first ever ‘Sonic Router Mix Giver.’
Astro:Dynamics is a compilation of 16 beats curated by Rekordah that features a veritable whos who in modern UK ‘beats.’ Names like Lukid – whose first two albums on Werk Discs pre-empted a whole heap of great music in their own right - Lucky Me’s Mike Slott and The Blessings sit in perfect harmony with Stoke Newington’s Subeena and SR’s new favourite obsession, Coco Bryce, alongside an old one in the form of Slugabed. Theres beats from established talents like Bnjmn (aka Jackhigh) and new names like Professor Ojo and Crackazat plus skweee tinged productions from Metske and Slow Hand Motem.
Designed less as a compilation of UK strains and more of a unifier for discordant strains of music that share similar sound sets, its Rekordah’s enthusiasm and passion for the music having put together the whole thing himself that really shines, making great use of material new and old. And given his position in the scene – as one of the most skewed beat makers out there - it’s inevitable that a compilation helmed by him would be packed full of “good friends and fantastic talents.”
We caught up with him, told him not to even dream of holding back and this is what we were left with… along with the dropped jaws and raised neck hairs.
Sonic Router: So… why the name Astro:Dynamics?
Rekordah: I’m in my last year of my degree right now, and around the time when I started working on this project was also writing my thesis. The thesis was based around an analysis of instrumental hip-hop and beats stuff within the context of Afrofuturism, particularly drawing on Kodwo Eshun’s ‘More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction’ as a frame of reference.
I got quite heavily into writing this thesis – looking in depth at the modern instrumental beats stuff as a form of hip-hop that allows for an erosion of the tension between the concepts of roots and futures in the music of what Paul Gilroy calls the ‘Black Atlantic’ – with the instrumental and electronic aspects providing that faceless, post-human element infamous with techno and the like, whilst the swung and unquantized element allows for a human, almost ultra-human, poly-rhythmic foundation to be present also. I also ended up drawing close comparisons between Eshun’s analysis of the late 60s to early 70s psychedelic jazz period – and the establishment of what Eshun calls a “post-jazz universe” – and the modern instrumental beats stuff, putting the case forward for this so called post-Dilla period as a formation of a post-hip hop universe, so to speak.
Anyway, before I end up writing another thesis here I’ll try and get back to the point. Basically… after surrounding myself with all this theory I knew I wanted to link these concepts into this project somehow. In ‘More Brilliant…’ Eshun creates this fantastic and really unique imagery to illustrate his theories by playing with words a lot, very frequently stringing together rather elaborate terms himself, and a lot of the time breaking words in two to form new meanings. So anyway, astro:dynamics is my own attempt at this sort of wordplay – with the ‘astro’ segment representing the stars and the concept of space and future, and the ‘dynamics’ representing sound and music.
I guess it was just a roundabout way of calling it ‘Sound of the Stars’ to be honest, if that makes sense…?
Were you inspired by the Beat Dimensions series? In that you were creating something that would stand as a snapshot of the scene? What drove you to put it together?
Definitely, the first Beat Dimensions compilation was massively inspiring for me – not just in putting together this release, but also in making me want to start getting more serious and focused with my own music as well. To be honest, I think before the first Beat Dimensions compilation came out I really had no idea that sort of vibe had gotten so wide spread.
In fact, before the Beat Dimensions compilation had come out it was another compilation that came out the year before that was really inspiring me – entitled The Sound of L.A. and featuring cuts from Kutmah, Ras G, Flying Lotus, Ammoncontact, Black Monk, Young Jazz Rebels (one of many Madlib alias’), Dntel, Sa-Ra and a few more. Before that I was, like many other guys involved beats stuff now, just listening to wall-to-wall Madlib, Dilla and Ammoncontact stuff. When I heard The Sound of L.A. it really hit the nail on the head of what I was looking for in music at that point, and it helped me to discover a bunch of great artists that I had never heard of before.
But before the Beat Dimensions compilation I was pretty naively convinced that this sort of stuff was pretty much solely confined to L.A. and Detroit. When it dropped it was a kind of WTF!? moment. Here were all these artists from all over the fucking world basically, and it really opened my eyes to it all. Then of course the next stop was the ‘Beatnicks’ Vol. 1 and 2 releases on Up My Alley which opened my eyes to even more new artists. That’s when my interest really went into overdrive to be honest; those Rustie tracks were just not of this planet, and the Jackhigh, Powell, and fLako tracks were really fantastic too – it just really hit me then how much really wild creativity was going on with this stuff, there was a complete disregard for imitation or tradition.
The All City 7x7 series also… it really just set in stone how special this music was, and how insanely eclectic the different sounds and influences coming from all the different artists on that series were. But the whole package with that series was amazing – the artwork, the concept, everything. And just in general I think the compilation format really has a particular potency with this sort of stuff. There’s just something about it that seems right, you know? It’s almost like so much of hip-hop (and dubstep now too) can be so inward-looking and insular, so focused on that one sound – yet the way in which the Beat Dimensions, Beatnicks, and 7x7 compilations gathered together all this internationally diverse and eclectic music it kind of forced you to open your arms and mind to it, and it not only allowed you to be introduced to each respective artist but to a whole group of artists with their own unique palettes, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing. It really is a reflection of how much variety there is to take in. I like listening to individual artist releases too but there is a different way in which you mentally (and I suppose physically) approach a compilation, it is a lot more based around discovery and variety. I suppose I don’t see it as a snapshot of a scene so much as a bringing together of individual outlooks and unique perspectives.
In terms of what drove me to put the compilation together; well it was actually another university project. I had my major project to do and I knew I wanted to put together a compilation from the off. I guess I put it down to the amount of inspiration I gained from the aforementioned compilations that made me want to try my hand at it. The project itself consisted of compiling and signing tracks, sourcing manufacture and distribution, and getting it to retail. I put a lot of thought into the track-listing and artists, and did my best to put together something that was cohesive and made sense, but I also wanted to make each track to stand out from the others and to be its own entity if you see what I mean. I also didn’t want it to particularly represent a scene of sorts nor did I want it to be specifically beats either – I wanted it to have that discovery factor to it as well, and for people to be surprised and intrigued by the music from whichever angle they were coming from. After all, that’s what music is all about in my opinion.
What was it about all the people (and the beats) involved that you gelled with?
Well on one hand I wanted to bring together many of the good people and artists I’ve met and/or worked with (either via the internet or physically) over the past couple of years or so. It’s another aspect of what makes music so great to me, getting to meet really nice like-minded people and getting creative with them or just generally shooting the shit, you know? I’ve been really blown away many really nice people there are making music, there really is hardly any of the egos that you might expect from people. I mean, first and foremost I’m a music-lover, I only ever wanted to start making music because I felt so inspired by listening to such great music, so it really is a fantastic thing to connect with people who I respect and whose music I love. So I guess on the whole the compilation is a sort of tribute to making those connections and friendships via music, and also a tribute to the music for making it possible – I know that must sound corny, but fuck it, it’s the truth.
On the other hand, at the same time as getting music from some more established names on there I did make quite a conscious effort to get some artists who are a little bit slept on onto the track-list. Take Clause Four for example, a friend of mine for a while; his record for DC Recordings back in 2007 was really one of the greatest releases of that period in my opinion, and he’s been making some amazing stuff since, yet he doesn’t get enough love for it – hopefully this release and his recent stuff on Jahtari will help to change that. Professor Ojo is another guy who has been making consistently great stuff for a while now also, and his beat on this compilation is really dope too – hopefully more people will wake up and check him out also.
I also wanted to bring in some more Bristol-based artists too, being my hometown, and that’s represented via the tracks from Crackazat and Lower. Crackazat is a guy who I think I have kind of half-known personally for years and years – a friend of friends and all that, remember the face but never got to know properly. Anyway he is making some really great music at the moment – multi-instrumentalist who’s studying Jazz and making some really nice beats on the side – we are going get to work on a solo release from him in the future and you should watch out for a remix of his on Affine Records soon too.
A lot of the people are UK based right? How did you go about extracting beats from people?
Yeah, all artists are UK based – with the exception of Slow Hand Motem (who is based in Canada) and Coco Bryce (who is based in Holland). The artists were mostly people who I have met over the past couple of years; via gigs, through correspondence online or just out and about in London or Bristol. The bulk of the artists actually fit in to that last category, so naturally the list of included artists ended up being quite UK focused. Looking back at this it wasn’t by any means a deliberate thing, but I do think it’s quite nice to have something that gives a good representation of artists that are doing their thing in the UK right now. That’s not to devalue Motem and Coco’s presence on the compilation by any means, but I will say that I have lots of admiration and perhaps a little national pride in the amount of great artists that are coming through the UK at the moment – and I think the track-list shows a good cross-section of what makes the variety in the UK so rich at present.
Whist I certainly put a lot of work into getting the track-list 100% right and exactly how I wanted, the process for gathering tracks was really quite informal and casual – this was helped by the fact that I see a fair few of the included artists pretty regularly, so it was naturally pretty casual. Also, being a university project, I had deadlines to meet – so this meant that the track-list was compiled rather quickly. When I say quickly, I don’t mean it was rushed at all – and it was at least a good 2 ½ months worth of work getting everything together and cemented in terms of gathering the tracks and finalizing the track-list – but it meant that the way in which I approached constructing the track-list, and the way in which I approached the artists themselves, was probably quite different to how the majority of labels would go about signing tracks for a new release.
I tend to find that quite a few labels, if not most nowadays, seem to want the newest tracks from artists for their releases. I suppose this is understandable in many ways, but it does mean that a lot of truly fantastic music doesn’t make it out there. Because of the deadlines I had to meet with university it meant that I didn’t have the option to have artists work on all-new material for it, so it ended up being the case that a lot of the tracks featured on the compilation came out of the vaults so to speak. – pretty much all of the tracks were already finished and complete when I signed them. Lukid’s track in particular is really quite old, sort of pre-Onandon stuff like the ‘Everybody Make Happy’ track you featured a while ago. And the Slugabed track came from a big pile of tracks he sent me in late 2008, it’s been my favorite beat of his ever since. I’m really happy to have the opportunity to bring these older tracks to a wider audience instead of having them lost and forgotten.
Like I said I can understand why labels would want to grab the new shit, and similarly I can see why artists themselves wouldn’t necessarily want their old stuff being unearthed as they may well be exploring new territories, and the old stuff perhaps doesn’t fit with the angle they are going for in the present day. But I’ve always seemed to be one of those guys who whatever music it is has always been about the earlier stuff, you know? I think it’s also quite interesting to once in a while take a look back at the older stuff, and to look at the contrast between that and the present. It’s also intriguing to see how people react to the older bits when they haven’t got the context and assume it’s new.
That’s not to say that all the tracks on the compilation are all old. Because of the deadlines I had to meet, my process for building up the track-list in the initial stage was mostly a case of trawling through people’s myspace or soundcloud players searching for potential tracks. The deadlines didn’t allow for much time to ask for artists to submit tracks – you what musicians are like with punctuality (I’m probably one of worst to be honest) – so essentially in a good proportion of cases I came to the artist asking for a specific track which I had decided on before even approaching the artists. Bit of a risky process perhaps, because it could’ve easily gone back to square one if the tracks I had chosen prior to contacting the artists weren’t available for whatever reason. Luckily, besides a couple of little hiccups it was plain sailing.
Its coming on CD first and then vinyl after right? Have you decided which cuts will be making wax?
In all honesty I really am having a very hard time deciding which tracks should see vinyl. The plan is to do an EP and perhaps a couple of limited edition 7”s. I’d really love to have all the tracks see vinyl but that’d be mighty costly and I’m afraid I just don’t have the finances to support doing that… I do have a good idea of what will make vinyl at the moment but I also want to see what the feedback and demand is like before the final decision is made. So if there’s anybody out there who has a particular craving for a particular track or tracks to make vinyl then give me a shout!
Any plans for a launch party?
None as yet. We did actually have a sort of pseudo-launch back in January, but it was more of a low-key drinks and records affair and obviously it wasn’t a release party as we were quite far off from a release date at that point. But I’ll be sure to sort one out soon, watch this space.
What else is coming up for you release/gig wise?
Release wise, the brilliant Tropical Heat compilation on MYOR has just dropped which I’m very happy to be a part of – such good tracks on there. I’m also working on a track for a compilation LP that will be coming out on the fantastic Lo Fi Funk label out of Spain – there is sure to be some outstanding music on there and the label it’s self is set for big things too, really great guys running that and they have got some great releases coming up so keep an eye on them. I’ve kind of been laying a bit low in terms of my own music at the moment because I am so busy nowadays what with finishing off my degree and working full-time – am I trying to kill myself?! But once university is out of the way I’m planning on settling down a bit and getting to work on a EP or Mini LP of some description, so hopefully that won’t be too far off.
In terms of gigs there is the Donky Pitch 1st Birthday Party coming up in Brighton with sets from myself, Boss Kite, Ghost Mutt, Slugabed, Randy Barracuda and Fulgeance on May 20th so make sure to try and make it down to that. It’s a brilliant party ran by some great guys. I played their first party and have attended every show they’ve done since, so that’s a testament to how much fun times there are to be had down there.
Astro:Dynamics will be released mid June 2010, distributed by Cargo Records. Further releases are slated to follow after the compilation also...
Full Astro:Dynamics CD tracklisting:
1. Lukid – Pleurisy
2. Jay Prada – Nina’s Strut
3. Tapes – Oberheimer
4. Slow Hand Motëm – Love is the New Evil
5. Clause Four – Daze
6. Mike Slott – Music’s Fun
7. Coco Bryce – The Cliche
8. Slugabed – Clunk Clunk
9. Crackazat – Party in the Clouds
10. Bnjmn – It’s Not a Joint
11. Rekordah – Candy Flossin’
12. Professor Ojo – Focus
13. Metske – Isotopic
14. Subeena – Rakeeh
15. Lower – Heartbroken
16. The Blessings – Lungebob
Artwork by SiriusBerlin.
Catch Rekordah at Donky Pitch’s 1st Birthday on Thursday 20th May at The Volks in Brighton.