Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Kez YM - Moving Vision - Yore

IF a dose of classy house music is your fancy then Kazuki Yamaguchi, or Kez YM as he is better known in music circles, is invariably your man. The Japanese producer has proved over the last few years that he really is a talent to be reckoned with thanks to quality output across such respected labels as 4 Lux, City Fly and Deep Explorer.

But it is his lengthy association with the consistently hot Cologne-based Yore Records that he is perhaps best known for, a relationship which for many has borne the juiciest fruit. Rather appropriate then that his latest for the German outfit, the Moving Vision EP, is also a bit of a peach.

Opening track Fixer is a slow burning, chunky percussive groover that unfolds steadily to reveal its heart and soul buried deep in African-inspired sounds, rhythms and vibes.

Extended Sunset is a real beauty. Near seven minutes of joyous, uplifting, smile-on-the-face deepness to warm the cockles of even the most hard-hearted of hard-hearted bastards. Moon Night Leaves is a bit of a treat too, superbly-crafted classic deep house with a touch of the Larry Heards about it, which is never ever a bad thing.

Ably playing a supporting role is Weekend, a more tribal, forceful and unrelenting take on the deep house oeuvre. It properly rocks too, building slowly but surely before finally letting go with a bombardment of first-rate percussion work, hypnotic acid line and a groove that dishes out a firm kick up the jacksy and demands “dance!”.

Check out:
Moving Visions @ Juno

Thursday, 9 April 2015

INTERVIEW: Jacksonville

IT started, not with a kiss, but a tip from a man called Imran. He told us to seek out, check out and even befriend a talented producer by the name of Chris Lyth. Fast forward five years or so and the man's alter ego Jacksonville is firmly established as one of bringdownthewalls' favourite artists, a name we hone in on and trust when in need of a satisfying deep house fix.

Although Lyth had been recording and releasing under various pseudonyms since the back end of the nineties, it was around eight years ago that his Jacksonville guise began to take shape and Lyth emerged as a serious deep house talent. And though by his own admission Lyth always favours the quality over quantity approach, a mantra more producers would do well to adopt, he has nonetheless racked up a lengthy and impressive discography with a rake of top-notch appearances and releases for the likes of Plastic City, Atmospheric Existence Recordings and his own highly-regarded Doppler Records. From the dark, jacking mayhem of Trix through to the delicious driving funk of Tokyo and the crepuscular charm of Twilight Industries, Lyth knows what buttons to press. Literally.

Now the good-humoured and humorous Yorkshire-born producer, currently living and working out of Glasgow, is back with a seriously splendid solo EP, Fragments, for the ever-trusty Inner Shift Music following a successful contribution to the Edinburgh-based imprint's recent Collective Continents release.

So bringdownthewalls decided it would be rude not to catch up with Lyth to discuss not only Fragments but, as it turned out, also EDM, wine stealing from Goth legends and the stripper's love of the Pot Noodle. We kid you not.

You’ve been in the music industry for many years now. Tell us about your musical background.
I started playing in bands when I was just a wee slip of a lad. A teacher had contacts in the music industry and managed to entice well-known bands to come to the school. Pretty much as soon as this happened I started to put together my own band. It was all fairly noisy with loads of fx pedals, feedback and drones. After six months or so we were ready to be seen by the paying public and we supported some pretty big acts in the early '90s.

Such as?

The Wonderstuff, The Mission, Dodgy, The Lemonhead Therapy and a few others who I struggle to recall. We stole nearly all of The Mission's wine from backstage because they were being cocks.

Anyway, I paid a lot of attention to the road crew who were setting up the PA and I used to bug the shit out of the sound guys. Some of them were very generous with their time and showed me things that I still use to this day. I remember one engineer cranking up the PA when he was EQing a kick drum. He swept through the low frequencies and showed me how different frequencies could be felt as they hit different parts of the body. I knew there and then that this was something that I wanted to be involved in, so I started learning as much as I could about sound and engineering.

About four years later and after a lot of messing about with rubbish gear in sheds, I was asked by Bellboy Records in Aberdeen if I wanted to engineer for them. I was 20 and living in a small mining village, so it was a no-brainer really. I learned a lot there about production and the music industry. As it was the first time I had left home I learnt a fair few life-lessons as well. Such as the cost of breaking household appliances and under no circumstances to invite a load of titty bar dancers back home to put on a private show and let the club managers find out about it.

Really? What was the fallout from that?

Ah well, in the early hours of the morning we got a phone call to the house, which was a touch disturbing as these people are not world-renowned for compassion and human charity. They called us hurtful names in thick Russian accents and asked for the girls to be put on the phone. They sacked/kicked them out of their flat for breaching the club rules. So we were good sports and put them up for two weeks. Have you any idea how many Pot Noodles two strippers can go through in a fortnight? It's fucking terrifying.

A noble gesture indeed, Chris. But going back to the music, how did your own production career get started then?

After the band fell apart, as they always seemed to do, I decided that I wanted a way of writing music that didn't depend on other people. So I got an 8-track and a few other toys and taught myself for about a year or so. I then went to Manchester when I was 18 to learn sound engineering.

How would you describe your style/sound? I think it’s a distinctive marriage of classic deepness and soulful tech. You definitely have your own sound and I reckon I could spot your work at 40 paces. But in a good way, of course.

Thanks! Y'know, that's probably the most difficult question I've ever been asked in an interview. I guess a lot of it is informed by the stuff that I've absorbed over the last 25 years and the odd brainwave here and there. I'm often affected by the environment that I'm writing in. For instance, if I'm writing a bright and breezy track and the weather outside suddenly goes dark and brooding then I will stop what I'm doing and attempt to soundtrack what is going on outside. How would I describe it though, dunno, hopefully danceable, melodic, and with a sense of atmosphere.

So do you think your surroundings have an impact on your sound? I interviewed John Daly once, who was living on the west coast of Ireland, and his opinion was that it was irrelevant to his work. Yet I listen to the collaborations between Owen Jay and Melchior Sultana, who both live in Malta, and for me their work together often has a summery, Mediterranean tinge.

I guess it's different strokes for different folks. We all have things that impact on us artistically. It's not like I soundtrack the weather, but you know that feeling when you're indoors and a sudden storm comes on? For me it kinda dislodges fragments of memory and emotion that have been dormant for a while, so I just go with it.

Seberg [on the Fragments EP] came about like that. I often write just on the laptop and sketch out ideas in different surroundings. Often as the weather is nice and I don't want to be stuck in a hot room crammed with valves and old analogues, but also to provoke different moods and thoughts. Malta? Yeah, I think relocation there would certainly scrub out some of my work's more dusky timbres.

Having just name-checked John Daly and Jay & Sultana, some of my favourite artists, who do you like listening to these days?

Basic Channel I will always go back to. Workshop I still love for their uncompromising output. R&S are always good. Aphex's Selected Ambient Works Volume 1 will always get a lot of time in my house. Every time I put it on it feels like I'm 19 and on a really great comedown at my folks' house, which I was when I first heard it. Matthew Herbert still remains interesting to this day.

I pretty much love anything that DJ Sprinkles turns her hand to. The Complete Spiral EP she did with Mark Fell a couple of years ago and sampled Arthur Scargill nearly killed me. As a kid growing up in a pit village in the '80s I thought it was a moment of unparalleled comedic genius. They used Scargill in the same way as other producers would use a voiceover monologue of some smooth-sounding American. It's probably the most left-wing concept ever to happen in house music. I fear there will be some sort of karmic realignment with Paris Hilton sampling Sarah Palin.

There are so many labels too that it would fill up an entire page but I really like stuff such as Ornate, Contrast Wax, Austere, Balance, Hudd Traxx, Smallville, Inner Shift goes without saying, Uncharted Audio, Delsin to name but a few.

Having spoken to you about this before, I know you love Move D. What singles him out then?

The guy drinks red wine when he plays. Surely that puts him in a class of his own. I like that his sets have that balance of the warm glow of nostalgia and the shock of the new. You can feel that he enjoys what he does and that comes across in the music.

And away from dance music, what do you listen to?

Outside dance music my tastes are pretty eclectic. I know it's dance music but I really have a love for disco, just the joy of it gets me every time. I'm a little distrustful of anyone who claims to like house music and doesn't like disco. I love listening to stuff from Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Erykha Badu, lots of funk and soul stuff from the '70s and '80s. I still listen to lots of shoegaze stuff from the early days of 4AD and bands of my school days such as Pixies, Pavement and Dinosaur Jnr.

It's obviously been a lengthy and, ahem, interesting career thus far. How do you view the future of the industry? I've noticed you make some very tongue-in-cheek comments on Facebook regarding EDM.

You know, it's funny because although I would rather have my ears sanded off with a brick than listen to EDM, I don't waste my time bemoaning its presence. It's music for kids mainly, American kids. I met one once, an EDMer from the States. It was at Sonar in Iceland and he was a really nice kid who was there with his dad and so enthusiastic that I couldn't tell if he was really high or just American.

As for the future of the music industry, your guess is as good as mine. I'm not gonna pretend to be a prophet and predict because in truth I just don't know. In the past it has moved with technology and I imagine that trend will continue. Perhaps there will be holograms of Richie Hawtin to terrorise your grandmother as a bolt-on package to Sky.

And what of the future for this deep house underground we inhabit with generally difficult sales of vinyl but with a nevertheless hardcore group of committed artists, labels and buyers who are in it, to coin a cliché, for the love of the music? Optimistic or pessimistic?

It's a matter of temperament really, but sometimes if you think it's going to rain it will. I'm neither to be honest, as neither state of mind is a true reflection of the reality. It's great that vinyl has bounced back from the state that it was a few years ago. One of the challenges at the moment though is the major labels are now cashing in and repressing their back catalogues so that it's taking much longer for small labels to get 12" out. All because some aching great dickslap at a major decides it would be a stroke of genius to press up the fucking Kaiser Chiefs.

Fair enough, Chris. Turning back then to your own release on Inner Shift Music, the Fragments EP. Tell me how that came about?
It all came about very organically. I've known Brad [Peterson] and Rai [Scott] since moving to Edinburgh and we often meet up for a beer or a coffee.

I sent them the B1, Seburg, they liked it and asked for more tracks. We went back and forth with various tracks, Fragment Two came next. It was a track that I had been working on that I had put aside, forgot about and then rediscovered. With the objectivity that time affords you I could see what was needed to make it a finished track. Then I did a remix of that which became Fragment One. It was done over a weekend and nearly got me kicked out of my studio complex due to my neighbour, a hormonally-outraged Transalvainian dressmaker, complaining about the noise.

Every Single Word was the last piece to fit into place. It's about a promise that was made and followed through on.

Looking ahead, what else can we expect from Jacksonville?
Other than the Fragments EP, I have a few remixes on 12" forthcoming. One for John Morrison, which I'm really pleased with. The original is a really classy deep house number and there was little to gain from trying to do something similar, as the original had been done so well in the first place. So for that I did a sleazy valium-esque remix with dirty overblown bass. Then I have a remix for Arnheim, who does some great jazzy house tracks. I'm working on a couple of remixes at the moment as well and I have a secret black label project that I'm involved with, but I can't tell you too much about that or I would have to kill you.

Talking of remixes, what is your general approach to tackling them?
First of all I like to think, am I the right person to remix this material? If the artistic camber is too steep stylistically or I don't feel a connection with it then I know I'm in for a hard time and I won't take it on. What bores the bare arse off of me is getting a remix package that's so similar to the original that you can barely tell them apart. I think a remix should bring something new to the table but still be identifiable enough to occupy the same musical space and harmonic language.

You have a live act too [check out here]. Any highlights/lowlights you care to discuss?
Trying to find a place to eat in Zurich's red light district was interesting. There's nothing like prostitution to kill your appetite for a falafel wrap.

As far as stage fright goes, not really. I'm pretty well rehearsed and I really enjoy it. I pour my heart onto the dancefloor and it seems to work. There's a fair few tracks that have started life in my live set that I've later gone on to release. It's a nice place to A&R your own material as I can see how a track works in situ. Dusk on Thug, Tokyo on AER, The City Sleeps/Seberg on Inner Shift being a few.

The music industry is notoriously difficult to earn a living from these days. Do you ever feel like jacking it in and getting a real job, as some would put it?
It's not easy that's for sure. I do other things as well, such as mixing, mastering and other general sound engineering. I've had some very nice jobs through that. I remastered Fila Brazillia's Old Codes New Chaos reissue which was interesting as I bought the album when it first came out.

I bought that album too first time round. One of the finest live bands I've ever seen. In terms of mastering then, any other projects you would be particularly up for?
I would love to remaster some really well-recorded funk or disco from the '70s. That would be amazing, albeit unlikely. The difficult thing is not to make the mastering heard, if you get what I mean. It should be sympathetic to whatever the material demands. No one would thank me for mastering a Minnie Ripperton record in the same way you would, say, a Drumcode record.

I first came across you and your music, Chris, thanks to a man called Imran. Remember him?
Is Imran Keyser S√∂ze? Because like that.... he's gone. That or he's the heir to a lawnmower fortune. Imran, if you're reading, say hello.

Fragments by Jacksonville on Inner Shift Music is available here.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Jacksonville - Fragments - Inner Shift Music

If incorrigible media twat Nathan Barley did music reviews then he would undoubtedly describe the new Inner Shift release as ‘well Jackson’. Because not only is it really rather good, or ‘well Jackson’ in Barley-speak, it also happens to be by one of our favourite producers, the man aptly known as Jacksonville.

Coming off the back of an excellent contribution, The City Sleeps, to the recent Inner Shift various artists EP, Collective Continents, Jacksonville [or Chris Lyth, as he is better known to those that know him] gets the opportunity to flex his muscles, crack his knuckles and craft a four-track solo twelve of sheer quality entitled Fragments.

It’s fittingly named too as the EP neatly showcases and signposts just some of the strands that make up Lyth’s unquestionable ability and talent, from dancefloor-friendly cosmic house through to classic deepness and even live artist.

It is, however, the eponymous Fragment One and Fragment Two that combine to provide side one. Fragment One is the more muscular and danceable of the two, thanks to an irresistible bassline, insistent kick, mesmerising acid line and warm pads that float off way into the galaxy like an untethered cosmonaut.

Fragment Two is naturally more restrained, distinctly deeper. Lush melodic synths and an inviting bassline are the order of the day with the combination working an absolute treat.

Over on t’other side, as Yorkshire-born Lyth may or may not say, is Seberg; a satisfying slice of classic deepness culled from a specially-written live set. It’s all about the driving percussion and funky bassline here, interwoven with dinky earworm melodies that linger long after the track ends.

Continuing our love of the B side [what is it with saving the best ‘til last so often these days?], the EP concludes in tip-top fashion with the utterly gorgeous Every Single Word. Here Lyth, who also owns the excellent Doppler label, allows emotional strings and melancholic pads to drift delightfully and harmoniously around a chunky yet restrained kick punctuated only occasionally by the well-placed vocal snatch. Well Jackson[ville].

Check out:
Fragments EP @ Juno