Wednesday, 27 October 2010

INTERVIEW: Spatial Talks Cross Media Releases

From the first times we got our hands on a mysterious Infrasonics release, a white 10” sleeve daubed with orange and grey squares and no information, we were hooked. Label boss Spatial seemed intent on keeping a little of that mystery at our first point of contact, choosing to leave us hanging on for clues to his tracks strictly numerical monikers whilst keeping the releases coming. Now very much open to our prodding he’s on his 4th solo 10” release for the label and he’s also put out three split 12”s, from Ike Release & Hot City, xxxy & Ike Release and Jamie Grind & Gon respectively, something regular readers of this blog won’t have failed to notice.

And whilst you might be aware of the releases, the digital tracks that form the ‘cross media’ aspect of all of Spatial’s solo releases could have been a little overlooked. Whilst choosing to put out physical product in this day and age could be considered risky, given the climate and habitual torrent abuse by so called music fans, Infrasonics stands as a bastion for physical quality and the digital age, embracing the digital format (as most labels do, selling downloads as MP3s, WAVs and FLACs) and new technologies as they do it.

Take the latest physical release for INFRA004: not only is it, in SR’s opinion, the most realised and danceable set of productions from Spatial to date, but it also comes complete with a postcard insert which when held up to a webcam unlocks a third track for the purchaser to download. Whilst we could probably explain the mechanism in some kind of surly, inaccurate laymen’s terms, we thought the topic of digital extras of note and asked Spatial to help us understand a little more.

SR: So, your latest release comes with a card that you have to register via a webcam to unlock the digital accompaniment to the physical release. What made you go to such, intuitive lengths?

Spatial: It's really just trying to be creative with the technology that’s out there and provide something extra of interest. To me, there's as much creativity in hacking as there is in other art form so some of it is indulging that interest. We were also keen to try and give more focus on digital component of the release.

Could you give us an idea about the technology behind it? How does it work?

There's a postcard that comes with the vinyl that has a url and a marker or pattern on it. You hit the url in your browser, and present the postcard to your webcam when prompted. Once it correctly recognises the marker it unlocks a section of the site that provides a stream and download of an exclusive track, plus some extra eye candy.

The idea came out of some proof of concept/R&D work that some friends were doing with Augmented Reality libraries in Flash. Essentially, the libraries are able to recognise shapes and patterns and overlay a video feed with other animations. We kept the mechanism as a straightforward lock/key implementation for this version but there's a lot of scope to extend the idea.

Having always released digital bonus tracks, that are obviously just as labour intensive to produce musically, do you think the cross media platform has been properly broached by labels?

Traditional models of consumption are pretty well defined so we're aiming to challenge that a little. It seems fairly clear to me that the masses are moving toward a service based model where the notion of file ownership will eventually seem quaint. It's a bit different in the marginal areas that we operate in but I think there's room to try be creative with a release. I’d like the two mediums to feed off each other.

Without entering into the vinyl vs. digital debate do you think it’s helped the label, offering up digital extras?

Absolutely. Seeding free tracks in streaming services like help to get the word out. I also hope it helped to convince people to pay for the other tracks. It seems quite hard to get much notice in the press though as journalists normally review what they find in the "shops" despite what we send out in the PR, so the focus is normally just on the vinyl. The exception to this would be Joe Mugg's Wire review for infra001.

It's also about offering a wider contrast with the material. I always wanted to use 10"s, largely for aesthetic reasons, and there's only so much music you can fit on them. In that sense the release is an E.P. that goes cross medium.

What else is coming up for the infrasonics imprint?

I've got great new material coming to my inbox from all the current artists plus a few interesting bits from outside. It's just a matter now of getting the right configuration for the 12"s and getting it in the system. I'm thinking about doing something with all the 10"s in the series also…

Personally, I've got a podcast up on Bassmusicblog now(ish) and a studio mix coming for DJ mag in early Nov. In the wider eco-system: Jamie Grind has a new night called Modulate in Leeds which looks ace. xxxy is now with Reprise so catch him playing near you soon. Gon, his missus and an obscene amount of vinyl just moved over from Dublin which is cool - watch out for that man.

Lastly, we're gonna throw another warehouse party at the end of Nov - sign up to one of the propaganda streams to keep on top of that. Last one was off the hook: 2 Funktion one stacks in an intimate darkened space, pure vibes. The real deal.

INFRA004 (previewed above) is in shops now.

Spatial – Sonic Router Mix #10

Photo: Thomas Sergeant

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