Leila- U&I | Exclaim! | January 2012



REVIEWS breadcrumbsplit DANCE & ELECTRONIC breadcrumbsplit JAN 24 2012

Leila - U&I

By Daniel Sylvester
Leila Arab has always handled high-pressure situations well. Before the Iranian-born, London, UK-based artist released a single full-length, she was programming live music for Björkwhile signed to Aphex Twin’s label. A year after reuniting with Iceland’s number one export, working on her polarizing Biophiliaalbum, Leila releases U&I. After collaborating with her sister, Roya Arab, and Tricky cohort Martina Topley-Bird as guest vocalists, Leila has teamed up with Berlin musician and the Knife collaborator Mt. Sims for her fourth LP. Over 13 pulse-and-pause tracks, Leila keeps the blueprint simple, expertly utilizing a singular method to craft each track. The icy synth of “Eight” and the black hail noise of “Interlace” sandwich the fluffy vibe of the Sims-helmed “(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway,” showing Leila more interested in the mood of each song than its BPM. As resourceful as Leila sounds on the pop-minded “Forasmuch” and slow-burner “In Motion Slow,” Mt. Sims demonstrates how ethereal and rubbery vocals can completely absorb a song’s sound, as demonstrated by the robotic “Welcome to Your Life” and the barely there sigh of the title track. It’s fascinating to see just how many tricks Leila has up her sleeve on U&I ― well, actually, just 13. Thirteen singular ideas fleshed out to their fullest potential.Can you talk a bit about your upbringing?
Basically, I was born in Iran, but I went to school here before the revolution. But once the revolution happened, we had to leave, so we moved to England and I’ve basically lived in England since then. That’s kind of the basics of my upbringing.

How did you get involved with electronic music?
It’s a really curious thing, the idea of electronic music. The fact is I use electronics to make music, but I’ve always said that my loyalty is to music, not to a genre. One of the really good things about the kind of strange, live trajectory I’ve had is you kind of learn quickly that, ultimately, you don’t belong to anything and that kind of frees you to do whatever you want. The truth is, I do adore synthesis, that end of electronics, but more than anything, with the equipment, you can make any music. That’s what I find quite exciting. The thing that I despair about is the idea that somehow we are like a real band; people imagine it’s real, but the truth is that they probably spent more expensive technology fixing their music than me or my friends do.

True, but the artists you’ve collaborated with mostly make music that would be described as electronic. Are you drawn to other people who make music in the same manner you do or are these just people that you’ve come in contact with?
To be honest with you, as a human being, I’m literally lazy, so it’s just who I’ve come across. Except for, funnily enough, Matt [Mt. Sims]; I met him one of the few times I bothered to leave my house. I’ve always been kind of lucky, where the things that have come into my life are pretty amazing. But whom do you mean, “The people I work with”?

Well, you’ve worked with Björk, Martina Topley-Bird and Mt. Sims. I would qualify these people as musicians that work on electronic music.
The irony there is that on Björk‘s last record there were a lot of handmade instruments, fucking weird instruments. That’s what made most of that record. I guess they were MIDI, but they were actually not electronic at all. And Martina, her records aren’t very electronic. And Matt, yeah, his music is very electronic, but the most important thing when I’m making music is being more about the sound. Like some of the music I make, it’s not like I listen to it; I don’t know anyone who listens to their music after they’ve made it. But when I make music, it’s really about honouring where it wants to go, like a certain song or sound. I guess, in that way, it is sort of electronic.

Speaking of the last Björk album, I know you’ve spoken about just how much work went into the making of that album. Were you surprised that it was mostly ignored once it was released?
What do you mean? You’re saying that the album was ignored?

I would say that it was mostly ignored.
Yeah, but do you know why? There was something curious there ― the apps were really kind of the focus of that record. But, yeah, it’s a curious one, but what I think happened was thatBjörk, as a person, is 100-percent with everything, as a mother, as an artist, as a person. Because I think that people think that she has 70 P.A.s that she just tells, “Go make me some apps,” but she’s really hands-on. But what I think what happened with the record was with the three years spent designing the apps, the reality of the record was slightly forgotten, because if you look at it from the gig reaction and the app reaction, it was phenomenal.

How much artistic freedom were you given working on that album?
Well, the fact is, everything was kind of there, so it was a case of half-going there as a programmer, but it’s always interesting working with her, because she’s 100 percent and I’m 100 percent, when it comes to music. But that’s why she likes having me around, because she knows that I can’t really pretend, I don’t really have a grown-up capacity when it comes to music; it’s just kind of hyper-instinct. So, with this one, it was just trying to flesh out what was already there.Is there one anything on that album that has your flavour on it that you feel proud to…
No, nothing at all; it was too formed. To be fair, the day I flew out, there were already reviews on the album. It was ridiculous; we were working on an album that people had already heard. The fact is, the premise was very much set. It was a case of making it more of what she wanted. It’s funny, because I don’t really work like that, I just do stuff like that for her because of everything she’s ever done for me. As an artist, everyone knows she’s kind of interesting and amazing, but as a person, she’s a hell of a good friend, she’s a good sport, a proper person, I will always agree to do things like that for her. But also, it’s a challenge, because to be honest with you, I’m kind of like an aesthetic fascist, I have kind of an instinctive reaction to noise and art. But I didn’t go there to project my music on her, it was, “Do I have the skills to help her finish it the way she wants it?” Because, it’s not about how I want it, I’ve got my record, I make those how I want.

Can you talk a bit about the recording of your new album, especially your working relationship with Mt. Sims?
To tell you the truth, he was extraordinarily generous. For someone who is able to produce that well, he was very gracious in letting me get on with it. He would come to my house, we would do work and I wouldn’t even give him rough versions to go home with. It’s interesting because the way I met him, I was at a party and I was starting to write this new stuff. I always liked his music and I thought that I needed someone like him on this, because the thing about his music is that it’s emotional, but it’s not sentimental; he’s very restrained. For example, “In Consideration,” that song is basically made from pure vocals, so when we recorded that, I just gave him the microphone and told him to just make any noise and I’m going to show you what my studio is set up for. My whole point was, “take the mic, let me show you what my studio is capable of, so if you do ever want to have a fiddle, you know where everything is.” And I think it set the precedent of “anything goes” with this.

When Mt. Sims joined you in your studio, what percentage of the album did you have a rough idea on, sound-wise?
More than anything, I knew I wanted this record to be direct and not flabby. I wanted it to be quite lean. Do you know what I mean?

Wicked! Because most music, if you listen, you could say, “Okay, those eight bars could go, those four bars could go,” and you wouldn’t even know the difference. I wanted to make a record where you really couldn’t do that. And where you could, I would be hard pressed to say to someone, “If we were to edit, tell me which bits you would want and which bits you would think is repetitious.” And that ethic was set from the first track that came out, which was “Activate I,” where there’s no flab, it’s just stripped down. And with Matt, a song like “All of This,” we did varying versions and he was like, “Well, maybe if this part was longer” and I was like, ‘No!” And there’s this thing that if you’re a girl and you make music that you’re obliged to be accommodating and I find it difficult, the idea that I would be obliged to anything when it comes to art, not to the listener, not even to myself, the art is bigger than anything, even me.

Saying that, do you feel that you are accepting of letting go of certain things or are you constantly saying to yourself, “oh, I should have done this different; I should have re-done this part”?
If I went through my back catalogue ― every single track I’ve ever released ― I’ve heard better mixes that I’ve done myself at home. It’s all about the version that most represents the emotion of the song; most producers are just concerned on whether the kick is fat enough or not. Most music, especially electronic music, sounds like it was recorded in a fucking science lab; it’s not for me. I want to make music that feels alive and the best electronic music has that feeling. When I’m mixing, every channel on my desk, every fader is like a weird little character, like you would imagine in a rock’n’roll band. The biggest problem, and I’ve said it before, is that in a depressing way, I’m kind of like the Donatella Versace of music. Because, to me, less isn’t more, less is less and more is more. I’m a bit of a wall-of-sound person. If I had to pick a producer who I’m sonically closest to, it would be someone bizarre like Phil Spector ― that kind of level where everything is loud. But the question is: is there anything that I would change? Yes, I would change it all tonight.

Was there an instance in your life that gave you the passion for art that is emotional and free from preconception?
I always loved music, but when I was young, I never had any plans to do it. I’m not the kind of person that used to stand in front of fucking mirrors and wish I was on stage and shit like that. When I was younger, I really did love loud music, but it was a private joy that’s become public. Last year, when I was in Iceland, I said to Björk that I’m at the point in my life where I think that I could have really done something else with my life. Like, I could have done something important or good, instead of dicking about and making noise. But when I look at it, I think, “I’m so blessed to do this,” but at the end of the day, the fact that I make a living out of it is a real bonus.



The Field- Looping State of Mind | Exclaim! | October 2011

(!) The Field

Looping State of Mind

REVIEWS breadcrumbsplit DANCE & ELECTRONIC breadcrumbsplit OCT 25 2011

The Field - Looping State of Mind

By Daniel Sylvester
When Axel Wilner released his groundbreaking debut, From Here We Go Sublime, four years ago, there was no such thing as chillwave, nu-gaze, witch house or glo-fi. In fact, there was little that sounded like his musical project, the Field. Now that layered, out-of-focus electronica is all the rage, Wilner has further distanced himself from the rest of the pack with LP number three, Looping State of Mind. As said title suggests, the Stockholm laptopist has kept the Field’s format intact, crafting full-figured techno out of short, footnote-less loops, allowing the listener to drift into eight- and nine-minute concertos. But, as evident with leadoff track “Is This Power,” Wilner’s newest compositions sound crisper, brighter and more indebted to his Kompakt cohorts than the latest batch of Pitchfork darlings. On the textural, pulsating “Arpeggiated Love” and the outright funky “Looping State of Mind,” Wilner demonstrates his uncanny knack for making ten-plus-minute songs sound diminutive and digestible, mostly due to the subtle way he volleys the pitch, allowing songs to ebb-and-flow naturally. On Looping State of Mind, the Field keeps his hit streak alive, topping off a trio of records that sound like they belong to the same family, despite such conflicting DNA.The fidelity on this album has been placed more in the forefront. Is this a response to the current wave of chillwave producers making lo-fi electronic music?
That was nothing intentional. We had the opportunity to make it the traditional way and it was tempting to do so.

There’s beauty to songs like “Then It’s White.” Do you feel that the inspiration behind your songs come from a more emotional place?
I think it’s all from the same place, but maybe it’s stronger this time around. It’s been a rocky year so…

You chose to use a lot more live instrumentation this time around. Is this just a natural progression of the Field’s sound?
I think it happened by accident, with the vocals at least. The instrumentation was there since the live performance turned into a band a few years back. As it now takes up more space live, it was just natural that it would in the studio as well.

Considering your songs are based upon other artists’ samples, what do you think it is about your music that connects with so many listeners?
Maybe it is the feeling of recognition, the hidden feelings in the samples or maybe it has nothing to do with that.

Where are you right now?
Right now I’m at home, having a pause between shows.

How are you feeling about the reception of the new album so far?
So far I feel very good! It’s a special time when you release an album.

What is the main difference between the writing and recording of Looping State of Mind and your first two records?
It’s the time spent in the studio and that we spent time in a real studio.

Are any of your songs about real life experiences or emotions or are they purely aural?
They are all real life packaged into aural.

Do you preview your songs to anyone before you decide that they are finished? How do you know when one of your songs is complete?
They’re complete when I can’t work on them anymore, so instead of getting stuck, I leave it. I try them out, most of the time, on my girlfriend and some other friends.

Rob Crow- He Thinks He’s People | Exclaim! | October 2011

Rob Crow

He Thinks He’s People

REVIEWS breadcrumbsplit POP & ROCK breadcrumbsplit OCT 18 2011

Rob Crow - He Thinks He's People

By Daniel Sylvester
It’s been over two-and-a-half years since Rob Crow released an album (Goblin Cock’s Come with Me if You Want to Live), which wouldn’t be a big deal if the So-Cal indie rocker were like any other musician. But considering Crow has produced 21 albums in 18 years with over a dozen bands (including Thingy, Heavy Vegetable and most famously, Pinback), He Thinks He’s People almost works as a comeback. The bearded, lumbering man can still pump out sugary, pretty melodies, evident by his trademark start-stop rhythm on “Sophistructure” and on the drum machine-aided “Tranked.” Keeping the majority of songs under three minutes, Crow keeps things exceptionally tight, working off peppy strumming and bouncy picking. But there’s more inventive and eclectic left-turns on this fourth solo LP, made evident by Elliott Smith-esque sad-sackers “This Thread” and “Unstable,” chugging acoustic jam “Pat’s Crabs” and the full-flavoured power-power pop of “Build.” He Thinks He’s People falls comfortably within some of Rob Crow’s best work, cleverly incorporating every face and facet of this musician, who remains just as absorbing as he is prolific.I’m speaking to you from a child’s birthday party?
Yes, it’s someone in my oldest’s first grade class. I’ve been here for a couple of hours and I still don’t know whose birthday it is.

What are your immediate plans once the album is released? Are you touring?
If I do, it won’t be until January because Pinback’s going on tour in early November in Europe for a few weeks. And then we’re doing a few days in December.

For Zach [Smith] and yourself, does Pinback take priority over your other projects?
Yeah, pretty much. Pinback’s the mother ship, so we make sure we’re on point with that stuff and all the other stuff is fun too.

Has this been the longest break you’ve taken between releasing albums?
Well, Zach had his first kid and I had another kid, but we’re always busy. Pinback does take the longest to get right. I’ve done many hours of recording with various projects, but nothing has been finished and released yet.

Can you talk a bit about the recording of the new album?
I’m slowly but surely getting better at it, but I’m still a total hack in the studio.

Are you still doing everything on your own?
Well, for my solo records, I do everything and for Goblin Cock, I do everything. For Pinback, we record all over the place. Some parts will be in my room, some parts will be in his room, some parts will be in a studio, some parts will be in a living room somewhere.

When you write solo material, does anyone get to hear it beforehand? Does Zach get to hear it?
No. I’m not really against playing it for people. The people that I would play it for, my friends, I don’t think they really care about my music.

What about your children?
Well, they like it. They want to listen to that stuff all the time, but that’s when I don’t want to hear it. They’re like, “Can we play daddy’s songs?”

Has getting married and having children changed your outlook on recording and touring?
No, I pretty much have the same outlook on stuff. The whole time, it just gets more and more ingrained; that whole, “this is a good thing and this is not a good thing.” Like, the more time that goes by, the more time I wish I had, you know?

Yeah. Is there anything specific that you used to think was a good thing that you don’t think is anymore?
No, I’ve pretty much always known what I’ve wanted from things and I’ve done whatever I could to make those things happen.

Speaking of children, the album cover has a childlike quality to it. Who designed it?
I did. That’s about my level of drawing.

Have you found inspiration in the simplistic nature of how children appreciate art?
Actually, I think that’s a myth; I think they care a whole lot about the intricacies of art and music and don’t care a whole lot about just the beat. In that case, you could just play them an 808 and they would care. It’s the certain things inside a song that they enjoy that sparks what they like about it and that’s the same thing for everyone, no matter what their age. But everyone is different; it’s not a question of age, it’s a question of personality.

How do you respond when people call you “prolific”?
They’re correct. I make a lot of stuff. That’s all I do.

Do you feel your material doesn’t garner the same attention as someone who puts out an album every three or four years?
I don’t know; I hope everything I do is judged on its own merit. I wouldn’t be in a position to know how it’s judged at all, really. As soon as it’s out of my hands, I don’t know how anybody takes it or feels about it. I’m kind of afraid of knowing, but as long as I’m happy with something, I’m happy with something, whether people like it or not. What I consider to be my best work would not be what the majority of people would consider my best work.

What do you consider your best work?
The Other Men record is probably the best record I’ve ever played on.

Did you find that you brought in a new audience with Goblin Cock?
Yeah, I did somehow; it’s surprising how many Pinback fans are metal dudes. Anyways, it just kind of worked out that way. Unfortunately, some people know about some projects and don’t know about others and that’s kind of the way I wanted it. For Goblin Cock, I wanted to put those records out totally obscure; I didn’t want anyone to know that I was in the band. When the record came out, the guy who put out the record put it on a sticker on the cover. I had been doing all of these interviews in fake voices and all this stuff all this time and then right there on the cover.

Are you a metal guy?
Oh yeah, totally; I’m a lot of things. Almost every form of art has some really great things to it and some really bad things to it. Except for techno.

Are there more metal guys showing up at Pinback show now?
Always, Pinback shows are a great cross-section of people.

Any idea who will be in your live band for your next solo tour?
I haven’t put together a live solo band yet because I still haven’t figured out what I want it to be. I want it to be an amalgamation of a bunch of things. I want it to be super-heavy, loud and I want it to have acoustic elements and for things with hard beats on them, I want that to come through as well. And lately I’ve been in to making films for all my songs and so maybe I’ll do a video part for that as well. It could be anything from me playing alone to a bunch of tracks to a seven-person band.

How did you become interested in making films for your live show?
Zach and I started doing something called “The Rob and Zach Show,” where we played really stripped down, weird versions of Pinback songs, and so I started making videos for that so we could have a backing track that also triggered live-to-synch video. And now I do that for all the Pinback songs, so that made me really into editing and making things.

They’re inspired by each track?
Yeah, everything is synched and sound specific. I also do this thing called the Devfits: a Misfits/Devo mash-up band. It sounds like the Misfits covering Devo and vice-versa, and I have films for that entire thing and I made those films to recreate a bunch of old Devo videos and that helped a lot. Now I’m tapped into that whole thing.

Have you ever thought about directing a narrative short film or even a full-length?
Yeah, I would really like to do that, but I start writing that stuff and I get so spaced out I can’t focus on one thing. Everything goes into a whole other thing and then another thing and then another thing.

You wouldn’t just film something that someone else wrote?
Yeah, I could do that, that’s easy. I’m so used to doing everything myself from scratch that it’s hard for me to think, “Oh yeah, I could just do one part of that.” If somebody asked me to just play the bass and just tour, I’d totally be into that… if it were a band I liked. I just like to be doing stuff.

So the reason why you’re so busy is not because you necessarily have these songs burning to get out, but more because you always want to be doing something?
I guess it’s a mixture of both things; it sure would be a load off to just be doing something and not have to make it all from scratch. Every day I sit down and say, “okay, I got to work on something.” But even when I’m not doing that I’ll be sitting around and think, “I should do this, I’ve got an idea,” and run downstairs and start working.

(Temporary Residence)

Toddla T- Watch Me Dance | Exclaim! | August 2011

Toddla T


Watch Me Dance

REVIEWS breadcrumbsplit DANCE & ELECTRONIC breadcrumbsplit SEP 27 2011

Toddla T - Watch Me Dance

By Daniel Sylvester
When Basement Jaxx released their groundbreaking LP, Remedy, UK house was still struggling to find its identity. A dozen years later, Thomas Bell drafts an inclusive overview of all that has transpired on Watch Me Dance. Retaining the blueprint from his debut, the Sheffield DJ (as Toddla T) delivers another set of pop-minded, club-footed anthems, pulling in guest vocalists and covering grime, dubstep, reggaeton and Brit-hop. On Watch Me Dance, Toddla T does little to ease the Jaxx comparisons, as his ode to Buxton and Ratcliffe are just short of shameless on bangers like “Badman Flu” and “Do It Your Way.” But it’s this same brazen attitude that allows Toddla to get such unhinged performances out of his guests, as grime preemie Maxsta practically speaks in tongues on “Cruise Control,” while “Cherry Picking” shows Róisín Murphy sounding ecstatic, in its most literal sense, cooing and coddling her verses. Toddla T never comes close to sounding nostalgic or tongue-in-cheek, although most of Watch Me Dance definitely is. Add in how proficiently he utilizes Roots Manuva’s tough guy grooves on the title track and Ms. Dynamite’s gentle moods on “Fly” and it just proves just how audacious Toddla T wants to sound onWatch Me Dance.

Am I catching you at home?
Yes, I live in London now, for about a year-and-a-half. I’m leaving to go out on tour in the morning. I’m playing in the UK and then heading to North America; it’ll be the fifth time I’ve been out there.

Your album is about to drop in North America. Have you been feeling the buzz?
Yeah, it’s been alright, man. I’ve had hit-or-miss experiences in the clubs there. This record has seemed to reach the North American people more than anything I’ve done in the past.

This time around, was there any pressure to work with American artists in order to reach audiences?
Being from England, I naturally worked with people from around here, but I did travel to Jamaica a couple of times for the album. For most of it, it just made sense to hook up with people from around here. Also, the tracks I make lend themselves to that type of vocalist. But I’m a massive fan of American music, especially hip-hop and R&B. That said, if I hooked up with an American or Canadian artist and it made sense, then I would definitely do it. I actually emailed Kardinal [Offishall] when he was in London to try to work together because I’m such a big fan; it has nothing to do with his nationality.

Speaking of collaborations, how much direction do you give to your guest vocalists?
For this album, I wrote or co-wrote 30 to 40 vocal tracks. Sometimes I’ll just have a beat, sometimes I’ll just have a beat and a melody, sometimes I’ll have nothing, just an a cappella and I’ll put a beat to it. I’m a fan of getting different things out of vocalists and I like things that are a bit off-centre or a bit off-the-wall. I’m naturally going to gravitate to that type of take from that vocalist in the studio. I’ll kind of push it, but every session is different how it comes about.

Was there anyone that wanted to go in his or her own direction on a song?
A lot of it was their take on my instrumental ― that’s the beauty of collaboration. I mean, I could write the whole thing, but when a vocalist comes in and they put something on top of something that you’ve started and takes it to a place that you didn’t necessarily think of yourself, sometimes the results are really good. Sometimes I’ll put it in there and it’ll make the track slightly different, as far as the dynamic.

Was there a song that ended up completely differently than you envisioned?
“Do it Your Way,” with Terri Walker, was an interesting one because I heard of Terri Walker for years. She’s a butchy soul/R&B singer who had quite a big record [“Sing Along” by Shanks & Bigfoot, featuring Terri Walker] about ten years ago, so she was on my radar. A mutual friend hooked us up and she came out to my little studio and she’s just got a major personality; she’s bubbly and fun. Before she started singing, I just felt like I knew her already, she was just so easy to get on with. Then when she went in the booth and really went at it, I was like, “Wow!” The girl I was laughing with two minutes ago, she transformed into this classic, amazing sounding singer-songwriter.

Considering you’re a relatively new artist, can you give us a bit of background?
I started DJing when I was 12; I was really into hip-hop music, watched MTV a lot, bought mixtapes from the locals and listened to BBC radio, the rap show. I was into hip-hop way more than my peers. I was trying to get my mum and dad to get me turntables and then from there, I was buying records. When I was about 15 or 16, we got a computer in the house and I started tampering with beats and stuff, sort of messing around. Then when I was around 18 or 19, I started DJing at the clubs, then a producer dropped and heard my stuff and that’s when I dropped my first record [Skanky Skanky] as Toddla T. I was about 22 and from there it really snowballed to where we are today. I began remixing other artists, doing radio shows; it was sort of a real compressed version of where I started.

If you had started DJing in your 20s, rather than your teens, do you think you would still be creating house music?
Well, starting young gave me a quite good advantage; I’m part of the first generation of people to be able to make music from home. Because before that, you had to have a studio and an engineer; I’m really lucky that way. But if I started right now, obviously it would take me a lot longer to develop a sound and I’m older now, my tastes have changed and matured, along with my ambition, but it would probably be a totally different sound. I’ve always been into rap music, then reggae and R&B. I’ve never really been into bands; it’s never been the thing that I’ve gravitated towards. From the time I was old enough to go out and party, dance music made the most sense to me; it’s just the biggest part of my growing up.

What would you say is your biggest influence outside of the dance scene?
I would have to say England and its mix of music. I wouldn’t say that it’s just one particular thing, but just the whole vibe and sound. You wouldn’t put, necessarily, reggae, dancehall and ska in a different category than dance music; it’s not that different than house music. That’s the beauty of Britain and Soundsystem culture; it’s all kind of one vibe and style, and I think it’s quite unique to Britain, especially in 2011, where the line between what people are into isn’t so extreme. That whole overall vibe is the most inspiring, to me.

That vibe really comes across on the album.
That’s what people say, which is cool, but, to me, it’s quite a natural way of doing things. But the rest of it is influenced from around the world: Jamaica, America, African music and stuff. But the way we put it together here is unique and British.

The album comes across as quite confident.
Yeah, I just do what I believe in. I’m quite stubborn; I guess it’s just passion, I suppose. Every musician should be like that ― nobody should be caught up in things they don’t really believe in. That’s the reason why I started making music and DJing: to make music that I personally liked. I never wanted to change that formula because I might as well stop doing it. The fact that I can make a living off of that is the most amazing thing ever.

Do you think that since you’re connected to club culture, surrounded by positive party people, rather than making music alone on your computer, dealing with negative bloggers, it allows you to be more confident?
Yeah, man! I think that it’s a different time now. That whole blog thing, where people can be really nasty and heartless, that can really knock back someone’s confidence. I mean, everyone gets shit on; it’s just part of it. But if you’re just starting out, it can really affect you. When I first started getting hit by that, I thought, “Woah, this is horrible!” But the same thing that makes it so easy to share your music with so many people makes it so easy to be slagged off at the same time. Being in the club definitely influenced how I think about and play music. But when I listen to music at home or on my iPhone, it’s not necessarily club music, it’s albums and songs and that’s what I tried to do with this album: make it fit as a whole. But since I’m in the club scene, it obviously has that influence; I didn’t want it to be just something that you only play in the club.

(Ninja Tune)

Com Truise- Galactic Melt | Exclaim! | June 2011

Com Truise

Galactic Melt

By Daniel Sylvester
When synthesized music started to gain a sizeable following, late ’70s pioneers like Giorgio Moroder, the Normal and Tubeway Army strived to make art that was progressive and ultramodern. It took another two decades before electronic music gained a sense of history, as emerging artists like Boards of Canada and Daft Punk began to create throwback music that melded sci-fi with kitsch. Galactic Melt, the debut LP (and follow-up to last year’s stellar Cyanide Sisters EP) for New Jersey’s Seth Haley, is equally interested in directive and perspective. Over ten rounded-edge, synthesizer-shaped instrumentals, Haley (as Com Truise) gives critics easy talking points: from the Fairlight CMI vs. Tiger Electronics vibe of “VHS Sex” to the new jack cheese of “Futureworld.” Somehow, it doesn’t seem out of place when Haley gives songs like “Flightwave” and “Hyperlips” a prog-rock sheen, focusing on traversing melodies and cross-stitching structures rather than allowing the beguiling 4/4 beat to simply carry the song. Like contemporaries Baths, Bibio and CFCF, the music of Com Truise is brimming with emotional energy and childlike awe, employing ebb and flow structures to create a narrative just as sturdy as something from a folk song. The medium truly is the message and Galactic Melt is aural proof.

Am I catching you at home in New Jersey?
Yes, I’m at home. I have a break ― the tour starts again on June 27. I played a couple of shows in Stockholm, Detroit and in Toronto. Actually, when I was in Toronto, I picked up a copy of Exclaim! and I really, really like it.

Considering you are a relatively new artist, can you give us a bit of background?
About 11 years ago, I bought myself my first set of turntables and decided to spin records. I’ve done that all the way through, but I used to spin drum & bass music for a couple of years, then I thought, “I want to make something that I don’t hear,” so I started to produce music. I produced drum & bass for a little while; I realized that I love that music, but it’s not right for me. I found out about Boards of Canada and then I started to dabble in downtempo music. That stuck with me for quite a long time, around five years, and then I sort of branched off into some other stuff, like downtempo-hip-hip, and somehow it all came together and formed the Com Truise project. And, of course, in my childhood, I was exposed to ’80s music, but recently it’s been my obsession.

Upon listening, one may conclude that you started as a pianist. Do you have any formal training?
No formal training. My mother is a pretty good pianist ― I remember her playing a lot when I was little ― but I’m a self-taught musician. When I was finding myself musically, I gravitated towards White Zombie and Nine Inch Nails, but it wasn’t until I found out about Boards of Canada that I realized, “Hey, I really do love melody.” With drum & bass, I was making really hard, heavy stuff. So after a while I was like, “Okay, let’s try some more melodic stuff.”

What would you say is your biggest non-electronic musical influence?
I would have to say Billy Joel. My parents are huge Billy Joel fans; it was mostly Billy Joel, Boy George and the Pointer Sisters. But it’s Billy Joel that mostly sticks out in my mind. I still know all of those songs from when I was a kid because I heard them a million times.

Is it just familiarity or do you think there’s something in his music that you really connect with?
I love the piano and I think he’s a great songwriter.

Can you talk a bit about the recording of Galactic Melt?
Basically, I had been kind of moving around in New Jersey to find work because I’m a designer by trade. But it was all recorded in New Jersey. I could explain it as a score for an un-filmed science fiction movie. There are so many artists who draw directly from their lives, and some of it is, but it’s more drawn back because I’m big on mystery in music.

You’re fond of vintage equipment; do certain synth patches ever dictate what you choose to write?
People lump my music in with the ’80s sound. I’m more interested in the production style and the actual “sound” of the sound. But I’ve always drawn a lot from funk, Italo disco and hip-hop in general. I’ll think, “I really like that sound, but how can I own it and how can I keep that nostalgic quality that it holds?”

With the Com Truise moniker, as well as the album art for Galactic Melt and video for “VHS Sex,” you like to reference the familiar. Can you comment on that?
Well, obviously the name is a play on Tom Cruise. As far as the design of the album, people say, “It kind of looks like [Joy Division’s] Unknown Pleasures a little.” But I didn’t have that cover in my mind. Maybe I did but didn’t realize it.

It could be an art designer thing, where you’re always absorbing images and it comes out in different ways. Does this happen with your music?
Oh, constantly, all the time. I have one song, “Dreambender,” where I played the bass guitar on it and someone commented, “Is that the bass line from [Joy Division’s] “Transmission”? It follows the same scale but it’s not “exactly” the same. But I was like, “Pretty close… whoops!” But it’s like they say: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

As Com Truise, you virtually have no material released before 2010. How do you respond when people say that you’re a new artist?
I’ve been making music for roughly 11 years, but I never really pushed my music that hard; I never really sent out demos. For Cyanide Sisters, my EP before this album, I had found a blog that I liked and they happened to have a digital label [AM Discs] that pretty much gives away everything for free and I was like, “Well, if you guys want to do something, let’s put it out.” I had no intentions of it going further; I was just making music as a hobby. It did happen very fast. People might know me from other projects, but it really wasn’t that long a road.

Did the fact that you’ve received some positive press and attention make you second-guess anything while you were recording Galactic Melt?
Oh, definitely. Half of the album was written before I signed the contract with Ghostly International, but the other half definitely comes off colder and darker. It’s from learning how to deal with negative people, but trying to not let that affect my music. However, a lot of it came through, plus most of it was written during the winter months. I did second-guess things. There’s so much complex music out there; I listen to complex music, I love it, but I don’t want to necessarily write super-complex music. I don’t want to have to listen to my song and think what’s going on or try to pull it apart to hear every single sound in the song. I just want people to listen to it and pick up whatever they want. I don’t want it to be too complex.

Once the album is released, what are your plans?
I have about four or five remixes to get through before I leave on tour with Phantogram and Glitch Mob. Stuff’s still coming in; I might actually turn some stuff down now. It’s overwhelming; I feel… stuff’s sort of going crazy. I still work full-time, but I actually put in my two-week notice today. I thought they would freak, but my boss was like, “I’m so happy for you!”

What remix is most interesting that you’re working on.
I did one for Kings of Leon that I really, really like, for “The End.” Actually, I was really nervous to do that. At first I was like, “I don’t know. Kings of Leon? My style?” But it’s my favourite remix. I did it months ago and it’s just killing me; it’s been on my computer forever. I just want everyone to hear it. It sounds like if me, Vangelis and the lead singer of Kings of Leon sat down and made a song.

How did they contact you?
They’re really up on electronic music; they’re really into it. A remix broker contacted us that was working on a project for Sony to do a remix compilation and they’re just waiting on a bunch of other artists to turn in their remixes.

Before you worked with them, what was your opinion of Kings of Leon?
They’re not really my style. At first I was like, “Is it going to seem like I’m selling out?” I would see a lot of media stuff about them, the bird poop thing and stuff like that, but once I got into it, I was like, “I really like this song!” I really think the sound of his voice worked well with my synthesizers. At first, I was nervous and then I was like, “Wow, this is amazing!”

(Ghostly International)

PVT- Church With No Magic | Exclaim! | August 2010


Church With No Magic

Reviews breadcrumbsplit DANCE & ELECTRONIC breadcrumbsplit Aug 2010

PVT - Church With No Magic

By Daniel Sylvester
Although it’s not the first time an electronic artist has undergone a stylistic overhaul (Caribou and YACHT come to mind), PVT’s Church With No Magic remains a vanguard in flexible, forward-looking songwriting. After two LPs of muscular, math rock-inspired rhythms and old-school Warp Records beats, Church With No Magic sees the Sydney Australia trio distributing nimble synth lines and gothic vocals across echoed song structures. Their first LP since changing their name from Pivot opens with “Community,” an icy rhythm that sveltely seeps into the rubber-made vocals of “Light Up Bright Fires,” a song flawlessly demonstrating PVT’s newfound knack for melody and momentum. Guitarist Richard Pike’s lanky phrasing and contained energy completely saturates songs like “Window” and the title track, giving their sound a whole new gravitas. But it’s murder ballads “The Quick Mile” and “Timeless” that sum up PVT’s conversion, drawing comparisons to both Nick Cave and Nine Inch Nails, as album closer “Only the Wind Can Hear You” sees Pike lamenting over a burning log backing track that beautifully crackles and pops. On Church With No Magic, PVT look re-energized and repositioned, proving that it’s truly amazing what leaving one’s comfort zone can accomplish.

What’s the general vibe in Australia right now surrounding your album?
Multi-instrumentalist Dave Miller: We’re all sharing the load right now. There’s sort of an odd anomaly in Australia; it seems that if you’re “electronic” than you’re “dance” and if you have a guitar you’re in the “rock’n’roll” world. We’re sort of this odd thing that people can’t categorize, which, for me, is good. We’ve done a lot of press here, which is a good thing. I mean, we’re not going to be on the Australian version of Top of the Pops, but I think there is generally a buzz here.

Can you talk a bit about the recording of this new album?
When we recorded O Soundtrack My Heart, it was the first album we’d done as a three-piece and it was the first record I was on. We hadn’t played a live show together as a three-piece at that point. So, it was kind of a studio thing and a lot of the time we were in different countries; I was in London and Rich [Pike, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist] and Laurence [Pike, drummer/keyboardist] were in Sydney. After the album came out, we played quite heavily across Europe, Australia and a little of the U.S. We probably played 170 shows, so we know how to play with each other now as a band on stage and we tried to utilize that in the studio as well. A lot of it came from improvisations in the studio; we’d sort of jam on a couple of ideas for 20 minutes, then we’d chop things up until we had some semblance of structure or style and then we’d re-record the vocals and add overdubs until we’d get a cohesive sound. Obviously the biggest difference is that there is singing and that was mainly through jams. Rich had a mic in front of him and instead of playing melodies on the guitar or keyboard he was singing them; it was pretty basic. We didn’t have words, at the time; it was really just improvisation. As far as the feeling, it was more of an organic thing. We were all playing in the same room and we left a lot of mistakes on the record. If we were U2, we would cut them up and make everything perfect, but instead we left a lot of things raw, much like a live show.

I’ve noticed that the vocals utilize so much space on each song.
I think it might be because we used vocals as an instrument. In the live shows over the past few years, Richard was using his vocals more and more and I would have a feed of that to my equipment, so I could turn his voice into loops and weird effects. It was one of those things where we were trying out ideas and blurring the sounds in the live show and that followed through to the record. If we were going to start singing, if we had something to say, I didn’t really see the point of obscuring that too much. There are a few instrumental tracks on the record, but we wanted to make a pop record. Sometimes it’s verse-chorus-pop structure and sometimes it’s not, but it’s pretty diverse, in terms of range and songs.

You said that the sound came from playing live shows. Is there something specific that influenced your sound?
Well, we’ve been listening to old music ― ’70s, early ’80s stuff and further back. As far as musical influences, that would be more the era than the ’00s. I think we just challenged ourselves on stage a lot where we always are trying out new things. And you would say, “Oh, I remember that thing from that song.” And then we’d end up doing that in the studio. It’s more about surprising each other on stage and keeping things interesting for us and people that have seen us before.

Your video for “Windows” has garnered much attention of late.
Yeah! It’s funny because people kind of complain that it makes them dizzy. When I saw it, I was so stoked that we did it. We had to wear these ridiculous headsets for a couple shows to get the footage and it felt very odd, but I’m very happy with the overall outcome and I think people see it as a unique thing. I think music videos can be about one good idea and having it well executed and that was one of those things where the director said, “I have an idea” and, at the time, we had a few shows lined up and it all worked out really well.

There’s been a lot of good music coming from Australia as of late. Are the Aussies going through a musical renaissance?
I think the world is just getting smaller. For example, there are a couple of bands from the mid-’70s and early ’80s ― there’s a band from Perth called the Scientists, from the ’80s, and I think they just put out one or two records. They’re absolutely amazing records and from what I understand, they had absolutely no recognition outside of Australia. I just found out that they’re playing their first U.S. show this year at ATP, which is one of those things like, “If it wasn’t for the internet, they would have just faded into obscurity.” There’s also a group called the Saints and they’re kind of widely regarded as having released the first punk song. When the single “(I’m) Stranded” came out, it came out before the Sex Pistols and I think it had one blip on some UK music magazine, which at the time, was how people found out about music, and that was it. They were popular in Australia in the pop rock scene in the ’70s and ’80s, but it was post the punk explosion and, from what I understand, they’re not that well known. I’m happy that people have access to this kind of stuff via the internet; it gives us a lot of hope.

Ratatat- LP4 | Exclaim! | July 2010



Reviews breadcrumbsplit DANCE & ELECTRONIC breadcrumbsplit Jul 2010

Ratatat - LP4

By Daniel Sylvester
In the 23 months between the release of LP3 and LP4, Washington, DC synth and guitar duo Ratatat have done much to keep themselves in the public eye, including collaborating with Kid Cudi, remixes for Björk and session work with Julian Plenti and Despot. LP4 feels like the result of such outreach endeavours, as Ratatat pull together influences from all directions, culminating in leftfield ideas like the incorporation of a string section and samples from films like Stroszek and Days of Heaven. Opening track “Bilar” immediately sets the tone for the album, as Evan Mast’s synth lines percolate for a full minute before Mike Stroud’s signature harmonized guitar locks into a groove that quickly fades away. By the time “Drugs” takes effect, Mast and Stroud are in full Ratatat mode, before “Neckbrace” gets all Bobby McFerrin on you, using nonsensical scats to drive the song’s transparent rhythms. “Mandy” and “Grape Juice City” deliver some of the most hip-hop-influenced funk of their career, seemingly influenced by the Ultimate Breaks and Beats collection, presenting these songs as bite-size, easily digestible pieces. LP4 sees Ratatat positioning their ideas in myriad ways, a savvy technique for a band whose sound could have easily become stagnant.

I read that the songs from LP4 are leftover tracks from LP3.
Keyboardist Evan Mast: That’s not true. I’ve been reading that too and it frustrates me when I see that. We recorded this record immediately after the last one. The recordings we did first became LP3 and following that we made another set of recordings, but it’s definitely not leftovers. The earliest stuff for LP4 was done immediately after and then we kept going back in later and recorded a couple more songs. There was a long period where we weren’t working on anything or we were touring for LP3. It wasn’t like we were working on it steadily for two years, but we were still finishing it up two years later.

That said, what would you say was the main difference between the recording of LP3 and LP4, approach wise?
Well, because they were in the same studio [Old Soul Studios], there wasn’t a dramatic difference between LP3 and LP4, unlike our older material, which was recorded in my apartment. With this album, it wasn’t as much the style as it was the songwriting that changed. We were just getting into different kinds of song structures and working with vocals a lot. [There’s] a lot of bizarre stuff that people think are keyboards ― the way we harmonized with vocals and loops. There were a few brief moments of things like that on LP3, like on “Shempi,” [but] we really tried to explore that more on this record. For me, [on] songs like “Neckbrace” and “Mandy,” the structures are unlike anything we’ve done before. The way we approached writing the songs, generally it’s a little more linear, the way we work. Mostly, we’d focus on a certain section of a song then we’d move on to another and rearrange the elements until we would have an actual product, unlike new songs like “Neckbrace,” which was more working on the whole song at the same time from the ground up, just trying to come up with different ideas until we made this mess. And then we’d go back and organize it, which is kind of a fun way to work.

Was the new direction in any way influenced by touring and working in the studio with other artists?
I think it was something that was going to happen anyways. It was more about keeping ourselves entertained in the studio, putting ourselves in situations that we’ve never been in before. We’re always trying to challenge ourselves. Working with all of these strange instruments, you put yourself in a situation that you are not entirely comfortable with. And when you do that you come up with more unique thoughts because you’re forced to break your old habits.

I find because to the effects on Mike Stroud’s guitar that you can recognize a Ratatat song right away. Is there a specific signature sound you work on?
Mike uses fuzz pedals and, generally, we’re harmonizing on most parts, so that might be what people recognize as our signature sound. It’s just a sound that we were really attracted to and it does take up a lot of space. When you harmonize like that for instrumental music, it’s a kind of a replacement for somebody’s voice: this really rich sound. And when you start harmonizing, a lot of layers of harmonics and such can fill it out the same way a voice would take up space on a track.

Some of the spoken word samples you used were taken from an interview you did with actress Linda Manz. What inspired this?
To use the samples from [Terence Mallick’s] Days of Heaven, I had to get permission from her [Linda Manz] because the way her contract was with the movie studio she had to sign off on everything. She kind of disappeared from the Hollywood scene and lives in a small town in the middle of the desert with her family and hasn’t been in movies in forever. She was really difficult to find; it took about a year to track down a phone number for her. But once I finally did and talked to her she was really cool and into being part of the record. Up to that point it was really just about using the sample [on “Party with Children”], but most of the time I just spent talking with her and we got along really well, so I had the idea to have her go on and do some narration for the record. Me and my sister went to her house out in the desert in California and we just sat down with her for an afternoon and talked about all kinds of stuff. She told her life story, basically; it was really entertaining. Initially, Days of Heaven had a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes with Richard Gere and the actress [Brooke Adams], and they went in afterwards and started cutting all of these scenes that were moving the plot along. They ended up editing the movie and playing it for Linda without sound in the sound studio and she just made up on the spot the narration. She was just a 12-year-old girl in a studio watching this movie and making up stories to make the movie fit together. I was really into this idea of handing over the controls at the last minute to someone else. I like that she added these narrative elements to the record.