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Seeing Sounds With DLR

Posted: March 31st, 2015

After blowing the doors of perception wide open on his 2012 album Method in the Madness with Octane, the Bristol-based DLR returns for another mind-bending journey into the psychoacoustic netherworld of drum & bass on his aptly titled Seeing Sounds solo LP. 

Having earned his stripes on imprints like Metalheadz, Utopia, Trendkill, and of course Dispatch, the latest long-player features the bass architect working his way through 16 heavy tracks, often in collaboration with a number of like-minded beat scientists in the form of Break, Hydro, Fokus, Total Science, Ant TC1 and more.

Centered on a cinematic framework that seeks to blur the lines between the aural and the visual, the LP’s synesthetic grooves have been frying synapses both on and off the dancefloor since its full release early last week. Never one to rest on his laurels, the ever-prolific producer is continuing to ride a wave of creative energy and checks in to give us a glimpse at his creative process and what the future holds.

 

“Seeing sounds” is such a rich conceptual frame to work with. At what point in the production process did it emerge as a frame for the project?

The concept is something that took a while to come, as it would be too much pressure for me to think of a concept first and then force myself down that route, when I am someone who can become easily distracted. I find it’s good to get a collection of tracks together and then sit back and try and establish what the best direction is from that point; this can mean scrapping some tracks and advancing others.

In this case, I was starting to see a focus with the collection of tracks that I had. “Ask the Question” was really the first track to establish the mood for the project, and once I noticed this, I also noticed that I had some other tracks that fit in with this direction, whilst others just didn't feel correct. Conceptually, I really wanted to stay focused on a soundscape-based approach, writing off the tracks that had too much of a traditional musical feel with obvious chord or melodic progression.

This direction was supported when I was working on the intro track, “Synesthesia,” with Hydro. Break was lurking about the studio while we were working on it and mentioned how he felt that the name “Seeing Sounds” would be an appropriate title for the project. Obviously, I immediately agreed; it just felt correct! So in terms of the title and conceptual frame, I really have to thank Hydro for coming with the samples about synesthesia and also Break for being so observant—it made my job much much easier, and for me that is the joy of collaboration! It’s a beautiful thing!

 

Sound design is obviously a huge part of what you do. Talk a bit about your process in the studio—are you working with atmospheres, sketching out ideas, making beats first?

I think it’s important to remember what the goal or aim is when creating and producing a product. This can be said about any product; in this case, the product is drum & bass, so really the main focus HAS to be on the drums and then the bass. At times, I feel some people working in the genre can become a little distracted or confused about the underlying conventions of D&B, mistaking it for a specific drum pattern at a certain tempo without realizing that if the drums are quiet and the bassline is secondary to the musical progression, all of a sudden it starts to become something influenced by the conventions of D&B rather than D&B itself.

This is why I really try and make something happen between the drums and bass, and conversely, this is also what can be so difficult to achieve. How do you create interest between only two elements in a genre that is over 20–25 years old? Often you can find that ideas are redone; when writing, I drift around different ideas, never satisfied, as I feel that it doesn't sound original or very groundbreaking. I never know exactly what I am looking for, but keep pushing to try and find an idea or direction that suddenly speaks to me and makes me want to push to roll the idea out and hear the track as a whole.

Sound design can be a really important part of this process. Sometimes I start with a soundscape to try and set a mood or direction, especially if I am trying to open my mind up a little bit, as it’s easy to get caught in the trap of going down the same road every time. I especially enjoy creating an idea with the drums and bass speaking nicely, and the mood of the sounds and music driving the idea; and then I really start to hear if the track has a focus and direction, and I try and build on this with new sounds and ideas that add to what is already there—sort of like the icing on the cake.

 

How do you keep things bubbling creatively, as it seems you are in a very productive space right now?

Recently, I rang up Ant TC1 [owner of Dispatch Recordings and label manager of Metalheadz] to discuss a few silly subjects and to laugh about stupid shit—the usual between mates—but also, I was a little bit concerned that maybe I have done a little TOO much at the moment, and I am perhaps flooding my area of the market.

While possibly true, Ant reminded me that there is no rulebook to this, and that it’s important to just do what your heart wants. If you're feeling creative, then enjoy that creativity, the vibes that it brings, and roll with it. Because as any artist knows, creativity is not something that sticks around forever; it can be very very hard to find a positive frame of mind and feel creative and inspired. Anyway, it seems to me that recently I have been more inspired than usual and have enjoyed this productive period.

 

Originally, our plan was to hit you with some Rorschach inkblots and get you to “see” your way through the album, but you’re telling me you don’t see anything in this? No donkey on top of a mountain getting ready to ride that bassline all the way to the open sea?

Ha-ha! Sorry, man, although the name of my album gives the impression that I may see sounds, it’s more a way to sum up the feel behind the sound of the album. Of course, I can understand that sounds can stimulate the visual cortex, but I tend not to visualize sounds in that sort of way. With that said, if others have a more visual experience from sounds, especially to those on my album, then I am keen to hear their experience!

Also, to be honest, I never really got these Rorschach images; I never really see anything. They always just look like some paint pressed together on a piece of paper, so they come out with a symmetrical shape. I mean, at times they can look like something, but it’s not something that really reaches out to me.

 

So when you think of your album as a whole, what do you see?

For me, it’s more a journey of sounds.

 

And in this journey, where do you see yourself headed next?

I am currently in the process of working on a really exciting project with Mako on Metalheadz. We are in the process of creating an album together under a new name, and it’s a really enjoyable, creative process that we are both loving. We both feel that the music will hit people a little deeper and take listeners back to the more freeform style that Metalheadz jungle/drum & bass was famed for in the ‘90s.

Release-wise, I’m awaiting the release on Dispatch of a VIP that I worked on with Break of “Murmur,” which takes the energy of the original up another notch, if you can believe it! Also on this release is “Tugboat VIP,” which I am incredibly proud of, as it’s a proper slice of slightly wonky D&B—and then “Regeneration,” which is on a little techno-inspired throwback vibe.

Due to Ant’s commitment to the cause, the format of the release is something incredible: 180-gram vinyl, with stickers you attach yourself, all in a dubplate sleeve! It’s a great idea—not only because it’s original, but because it can give the younger generation a taste of dubplate culture, whilst the older heads can be sentimental and remember the days of cutting dubs and collecting the music on a format that is not throw-away and gives you a real sense of ownership. I am mighty proud to be a part of such an exciting project!

 

 

By Chris Muniz

This article originally appeared on Insomniac.com.

 

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The 7th Letter: Bass Roots & Culture

Posted: March 31st, 2015

Numbering in the hundreds yet spearheaded by the mysterious figurehead known as Eklips, The Seventh Letter family has transformed from a rag-tag group of like-minded taggers and aspiring graffiti artists into a full-on multi-media empire. From the launch of their flagship store in December of 2013 in the Fairfax district, on through to their partnerships with everyone from The Hundreds to Reebok, the fundamental philosophy of The Seventh Letter remains fiercely independent, underground, and as unique and varied as its diverse and talented crew.

Emerging from the bombing crews AWR (Art Work Rebels/Angels Will Rise) and MSK (Mad Society Kings) in the late 1990s, the formation of The Seventh Letter collective heralded a new direction for the future of graf and street culture in general as it continued to attract the attention of big business and the “legitimate” art world alike.

Merchandising, branding, and corporate gigs were no longer seen as crossing over as legendary writers from the late-1980s and early 1990s were eager to not only evolve and capitalize off the growing mainstream interest in street culture but were determined to take control of the imagery that corporate America was using to appeal to a younger generation.

It’s a trajectory and ethos that feels familiar to those who’ve followed the ongoing evolution of bass music and its surrounding culture over the course of the past two decades. One figure who has and continues to straddle both worlds is the Los Angeles-based artist and DJ known as Hazen. A familiar face in the early days of the Bassrush dynasty as well as a long-standing and respected member of The Seventh Letter family, Hazen has been in a unique position to witness the ways in which street and bass culture continue to grow and expand in often surprising ways so we thought it only proper to sit down for a quick chat on the roots and intersections of graf/street/bass culture and where things are headed in the future.

 

Talk a bit about your own introduction to graf/street culture and how that led to you becoming part of The Seventh Letter crew.

I started skateboarding at a young age; so you’re out on the street and getting yelled at by people and then before you know it, it’s middle school and you’re hanging out with people who are skateboarding and writing on shit. Somehow the two went together and so as I got more and more into it, I eventually met up with the people like Tyke and Krush and eventually we linked up with AWR and started hanging out with Eklips and the rest of what would eventually become The Seventh Letter crew.

 

How did your interest in graf culture coincide with your interest in early rave culture?

It was right around the same time I got into AWR that I met Pasquale and all the crazy Westwood heads. This was around 1989/1990 and Westwood used to be a crazy hangout; it was all these kids from the westside at first, but then people started coming down from the valley and the east side and it became this free-for-all space. It was crazy.

The style back then was like a thrift store style and it was all about how wild you could get. I remember I used to bleach my clothes and then dye them bright colors, wear crazy hats, all of that. As a writer, going out to those early raves was a natural fit because it was about being out late in the hood, places we were already going when we were writing.

 

At what point do jungle and drum & bass enter the picture?

Breakbeat hardcore was taking off in the early 1990s, but that was also around the time I actually got out of it for a few years as raves started to get trendy really fast; all the kids from my high school were like, “Oh my god, rave, let me go with you.”

But then, sometime around 1995, I was hanging out with some friends that wanted to go to a rave and so we went and I found this other room; it was all dark, it was literally downstairs, and I stumbled in there and I was like, “What the fuck is this?” There was a live drummer and I don’t even know for sure who was DJing—it had to be either CRS?, R.A.W., or Oscar Da Grouch. It was really dark, you couldn’t see anything, it was all about the music and I was back in full speed.

 

In the same way that bass culture has developed from those early days, street culture has went through some monumental transformations! From fashion to film to gallery and museum shows—it’s a full-on cultural takeover!

I think it’s a lot like drum & bass and that’s why I feel so much at home with both cultures. There’s always this feeling that what we’re doing is cutting edge but still underground. Even though they expand and get popular, they can never really crossover in the way that other things can because they have this raw attitude at the core that just can’t be replicated.

If there is a danger it’s that when things blow up a lot of the people who helped build that culture get left behind or left out of the loop and that’s a hard thing to see. So I think that that is why Eklips and TSL are so successful. His vision is not about selling out, it’s about bringing the real people in and helping them be successful in spreading this culture that we all helped build.

 

Where do we go from here? I know you’ve recently moved into working with metal and making sculptures. Is that the future?

I think for people like me that got busted, arrested, had to pay all these fines and shit, it gets old and to have a legitimate outlet is good. Obviously we will always paint on trains and walls, but to be able to showcase another side of your art and your vision is really powerful. We’re artists; it’s not like I can only do letters, I can do a lot of different things.

So that’s where the metal work comes in for me. When I do a piece, you can definitely see the graffiti and the jungle in it. Jungle to me is heavy, big, thick pieces of metal like the bass and then sharp the way the beats just cut through. I love that sharpness.

As far as the future, I see it merging; the music, the art, all of it. My goal is to be a part of the old school that says, hey look, there’s graffiti, there’s bass music, there’s hip-hop, there’s art, but it’s not all separate, and there’s actually a lot of connections between it all.

It’s the same with The Seventh Letter store. The vision is not, here’s your gallery, here’s your clothing store—instead it’s a space to create. I’m actually surprised there’s not a recording studio in there. Maybe that’s the next step. We will have to wait and see.

 

By Chris Muniz

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Definitive Get Savage With New EP

Posted: March 31st, 2015

US dubstep outfit Definitive get technical with new works presented by L.A.-based imprint Savage Society. Meticulously engineered synth work energizes the collection of dancefloor bangers on their forthcoming Ultimatum EP, with face-melting cavernous bass drips from a title track which received play across seas at Belgium’s venerated Rampage Festival.

The streetwise anthem in the making, “Act A Fool,” makes it way onto the EP, along with the awaited VIP of “The Hustle.” A Special BloodThinnerz collaboration entitled “Trauma” goes absolutely mental, bringing a fresh production approach and serious ammo for dancefloors across the globe. Listen to “Ultimatum” below before the full EP drops in May.

 

By Amanda Ross

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Soul:Motion Get Sentimental On Rush Records

Posted: March 30th, 2015

Embracing the refined and seductive side of drum & bass, liquid funk dynamos Alex Mos and Phil Barnes (aka Soul:Motion) are swiftly gaining notoriety for their collaborations on Leeds-based music house Rush Records.

Landing with new single and catalog number RUSH023, “Sentiment” explores ocean-deep bass frequencies with intricate percussion that creates a meditative atmosphere, while “Lonely Road” and its warm, low-end sub evokes summertime vibes. Preview the perfectly produced rollers below.

 

By Amanda Ross

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jPhelpz Releases New EP On Firepower

Posted: March 30th, 2015

Bassrush caught up with young gun jPhelpz to chat about his second EP, Mech Bounce, for esteemed dubstep label Firepower Records. As the title may suggest, the EP is littered with bone-crushing, rage-worthy bass. “I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and put together something that took elements from a variety of genres. Mech Bounce is a collection of music that shares a mechanical, robotic sound and bouncy vibe,” explains the artist.

The EP is comprised of four frenzied riddims: the experimental dubstep/bass-hop track “Armshouse” (featuring UK grime MC Merky Ace), “Money, Music, Fam,” “Shadow Sword” (filled with straight-forward drums and tear-out lazers), and the danceable “Trill.” Check out the robo-pressure below, available worldwide April 14.

 

By Amanda Ross

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Etherwood Delivers Once Again

Posted: March 29th, 2015

For most people it was Etherwood’s self-titled LP on Hospital Records in 2013 that made them sit up and take note of a new liquid superstar among us. Having since racked up the accolades and love from VIPs and the public alike, the songwriter and musician promises that the best is still to come in the form of his second LP, which is currently in production.

In the meantime, Etherwood has been teasing us with monster tunes here and there, most recently “Amen Roadtrip” released on the Hospitality 2015 compilation, and now “You’ll Always Be A Part of Me,” a haunting one-sided single on Med School, the sister imprint of Hospital.

It’s testament to Etherwood’s abilities as both a musician and vocalist as his signature voice brings on the goosebumps right from the beginning, easing the way for the melancholy pain still to follow. It’s an exercise in blending organic and electronic vibes in one setting and Etherwood pulls it off beautifully. The captivating lyrics, symphonic atmospheres, and ever-present emotion that Etherwood brings to the fore, make this one an instant classic sure to be on repeat for all those star-crossed lovers out there.

For an exclusive, one-sided 7-inch vinyl version of the tune, be sure to head over the Hospital Shop.

 

By Chris Muniz





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