Monday, November 30, 2020

Duncan Gray Chitter Chatter

Has it been difficult to keep the label going under lockdown? 

 

Lockdown had a big impact on the music industry. Having had most of our music sales reduced to the merest trickle by the advent of streaming services, many of us have been relying on live performance and DJing to earn any money at all. Lockdown put an end to that. It's not so bad for someone like me – I've never had enough DJ work to rely on for a main income – but for many of my friends this has been devastating. It's also forced people to try to find other ways to make money from music – merchandise etc. 2020 has been the year that tici taci stepped into the world of CD manufacture, and for the most part that's worked out very well.

 

For studio-based producers lockdown hasn't been so bad. If anything the producers on my label have had more time on their hands to create and produce. It's been easier to badger them into doing stuff for tight deadlines. And some have found that working from home gives them more family time and time for exercise etc.

 

 

What is tici taci’s demographic?

 

I'm not sure, but I suspect it's loaded towards people over 30. Having said that, there are plenty of people in their late teens and early twenties who have told me they love the label. I suppose it appeals to people who like their slo-mo a bit prog but not pompous (in the way that Leftfield were).

 

How diverse to you consider the label to be, and is there such a thing as a typical tici taci artist?

 

My mind isn't so open that anything can crawl right in, but I do feel the music on tici taci has been pretty diverse over the last seven years. My ground rule for demo submissions is that the music should feature live instruments, but there have been some notable releases which don't follow this rule and yet still capture the spirit of the label. One of my all time favourite releases on the label is Dawad and Mokic's ‘War Inside’, and that's all electronic. 

 

I do get sent a lot of demos from chancers who clearly don't have a clue what kind of music we release, and in the past there have been artists who were really persistent in trying to get a release on tici taci as it would help raise their profile – but the fans of the label expect a certain level of curation from me, and there's no point in releasing tracks which don't fit our sound. To answer your second question, I would say Uj Pa Gaz pretty much represents the typical tici taci artist.

 

Where do the tici taci artists come from, how international is its reach?

 

We are a worldwide label: we've featured producers and remixers from – oh let's see – the UK, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Albania, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Romania, and Norway. Hope I didn't miss anyone.

 

The label has brought me plenty of unexpected opportunities to travel and DJ in many other countries, so I have to assume that the appeal is fairly wide. It all stems from Italo Cosmic Disco and UK post-punk really, so it's quite Eurocentric


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Is ‘The Malcontent Vol. 2’ a follow up to 2017’s ‘Vol. 1’ in any way other than name?

 

Yes. I always intended to do a quick follow up to Volume 1 because I had so many leftover tracks, but in the end it took three years and I pretty much scrapped all those original leftovers. One thing that I was sure about was the involvement of the vocalists from Volume 1 – and wherever possible I tried to use the same singers and place their tracks in a similar position on the second volume. Hence both albums start with a track which was co-written with Snem K, and end with a track co-written with Sarah Rebecca.

 



And are you as dissatisfied as the name suggests? If so, why?

 

Originally I wanted to call the album ‘Content Provider’ because of the way music producers were being treated by streaming hosts, but Stewart Lee beat me to it. The “content” part of the word stuck with me, so I thought about its other meaning and the word “Malcontent” had some ambiguity as being “Bad Content” or “Dissatisfaction”. And yes, I am often dissatisfied, especially with my own music. I love the process of making tracks, but quickly become dissatisfied with them. The temptation is to just leave them behind and move on to something new, but anybody with production experience will tell you that the last 10% of the job is the slowest and most important part. The longer you work on something the less easy it is to be truly objective about it. Am I 100% satisfied with volume 2? Not really, but once it's done and committed to a release it is set in stone, and I'm sure I'll be happy enough when I look back at it in a year or two.

 

If you could describe the album in one sentence, what would it be?

 

That's difficult. I could describe what I intended it to achieve and see if that does the trick: I wanted to make an album of tunes at various tempos that you could dance to, with a consistent sound and feel, but also to be something that you could enjoy as an entire album if you listened to it at home or on a car journey.

 

If Discogs is to be believed, it’s only your second solo album in a recording career spanning two decades. Is there any particular reason why this is the case? 

 

I have made other albums as part of a collaboration, but these are my only solo albums so far. Part of that is because of the field of music in which I find myself working. Dance music is pretty ephemeral – and I think that's part of the appeal. True classics come along once in a while but for the most part these are creations with an existence like a mayfly. They appear in the  subculture of a subculture for a few weeks and then they are gone. They are supposed to be like that and I like that about dance music. Discreet packages of “now” entertainment made with a purpose in mind. It's only when you start to think of these things as having longevity that you run into trouble. I've been making and releasing tracks since the mid 90s and I barely remember the majority of them. And that's fine! No point in getting too attached. Here comes the next one...

 

 

 tici taci has become such a favourite label of the ALFOS DJs that it’s impossible not to mention Sean Johnson and Andrew Weatherall. What was your reaction to his passing and why do you think the music you release has become such a good fit for the fiesta?

 

Oh man, I was so blessed to have had Andrew in my life, and am so blessed to still have that connection through my work with Sean and my friendship with Andrew's brother Ian. I'm always amazed that Andrew welcomed me into his musical world as I don't really fit the imaginary bill – I'm no hipster or hustler, I was never one to be seen at all the right places, or hang out with the right people. But of course Andrew saw beyond that with people, especially producers. Andrew knew that I gave up a lucrative “sensible” career to become a pauper in music. He encouraged me to! But he also stood by me, and he positively came to my aid when I was floundering. He instinctively knew I'd be good at producing the kind of music he and Sean were playing at ALFOS, so he helped steer me in that direction. He helped me establish the label and it's no idle boast to say that tici taci has been one of the most played labels at ALFOS ever since the label started. It makes me truly happy that the ALFOS  community has accepted Sean's continuation of the name and the vibe. It was always the two of them, and both Sean and I know that our friend is always there looking over our shoulders, helping us make the right choices. 

 

 

Slough always seems to get a negative press, from John Betjeman to ‘The Office’. How has living there influenced you?

 

It was never a first choice place to live. I ended up here more than two decades ago. In fact I've lived in the same rented house for most of that time. Slough and the surrounding area made a big contribution to the growth of Acid House in the early days. The clubs, the record shops, the DJs and producers, there was a strong commitment to the scene in a way which was entirely absent where I'd grown up (Hertfordshire). I'd only been living in Berkshire a little while when I was introduced to the likes of Andrew, Phil Perry, and Billy Nasty, because of people I'd met in Slough. However, I expect gentrification and rising rents will force me out eventually. That'll be fine. I've done my time here.

 

After having had such a long career in music, what was the thinking behind forming tici taci?

 

It's was Andrew's idea really. After I got made redundant from my job working at the non-glamorous end of TV production, I was floundering. I couldn't get any work as I was already at the blunt-end of the desirable age spectrum. I started producing tracks at lower tempos with a lot of real guitars and bass on them. I sent them to Andrew because, well, because he was Andrew. To my amazement he called me up and told me he loved them, like, several weeks running. He invited me to come to an ALFOS party where I saw Sean for the first time in donkey's years, and heard the pair of them play a couple of my tracks. It was a life changer. Once I'd got a decent portfolio of releasable tracks together he said “You've got to start a label” and he took me round to Above Board Distribution where I have remained ever since. From there things took off. Every other label I'd started got stuck by the 5th release, but with tici taci it just kept working, and now we find ourselves at release number 65.

 

 

How important is social media in promoting the music and how effective is Bandcamp?

 

Eww, social media is a necessary part of running a label now. I'm not really very good at it but for people who love that kind of thing then it's a godsend. To be fair it has brought the label to the attention of thousands of people who might not have noticed it otherwise. That's happened largely because of the support I've had from Djs and clubs who have much bigger followings and are much more adept at working those social angles. Basically, other people have made me look good.

 

However, I applaud Bandcamp and everything it stands for. At a time when musicians need some extra help they are just about the only place holding out a hand. Altogether it's a great platform and really the model for the future. It's user driven and that clearly worries the old established structures.

 

The Bandcamp site for tici taci has different content to the main label : on our Bandcamp page you'll mostly find tracks which have been played at ALFOS but didn't get a release at the time. Crazy as it sounds, I couldn't keep up with the amount of tracks Andrew and Sean had played, and there are still at least a dozen more which got played and haven't been released. People keep spotting them in recordings of ALFOS nights and asking me if they're getting a release.

 

 

Do you think that the music business fetishizes youth and is it important to start early?

 

Ha, yes, it's all about selling product isn't it? If major labels and TV shows thought they could raise their revenue by making old people an attractive sales opportunity then they would. In fact you could argue that they have. Seasick Steve is no oil painting is he? Is it important to start early? Well if, like me, you take 20 odd years before you really hit your stride then yes. Start as early as you can. Some people seem to be born with the gifts in place don't they? I had to work at it a bit.

 

In most creative fields your kudos grows with age. Orchestral composers, Jazz players and fine artists don't really get a lot of flack for developing their skills over time, but the music industry has a tendency to take a talent, chew it up and spit it out. Rare is the pop or rock star that still produces vital work in the late phase of their careers. Rare but not unknown. And that's because the industry isn't geared towards veterans – many of them truly are jaded, and that will be a result of the treadmill they've been on. Tom Waits is still great, but he's never really let himself become just a cog in the machine.

 

 

What do you listen to in your free time? Could you list a top 5 of anything in general and nothing in particular?

 

 

If I've been working on music a lot then it doesn't leave much room in my head for recreational listening, and when I feel like that I do other things. During times when I step back from music production I get the chance to listen to music as a fan, and that's a wonderful thing. A lifelong obsession.

 

I have LOVED so many bands and artists over the years. Devoted myself to them. And some of those are artists I can barely listen to now. I think that's fine. To love and to move on is better than adhering to a single musical credo for the rest of your life. I almost never listen to dance music during my time off. An exception to this is Sean's EBS shows since lockdown started.  I also tune in to the Hutchinson Brothers show “Feed Your Head” on Kane FM most Sunday mornings to catch up with the new tunes and say hello to the community of listeners. It's a very social thing.

 

I have faith that future generations will create music every bit as wonderful, if not better, than what's gone before. If I didn't think that then I would be just a sad old Acid Ted.

 

So here's a top 5 of anything in general and nothing in particular.




Miles Davis – In A Silent Way



 


MGMT – When You Die



 




 

Pixies - Wave of Mutilation








CAN - Halleluwah



 


Melvins – Let it All Be

 

 

 Thanks very much Duncan for the time you spent answering these questions. Quickest answers I've ever got back, looks like it could have been a heavy stream of consciousness session.

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

The Malcontent Vol. 2 - Duncan Gray (tici taci)

 



Title: The Malcontent Vol.2

Artist: Duncan Gray

Label: tici taci

Cat Number: Ticitaci065

Genre: Psychedelic Chug

 

Title: The Malcontent Vol.2

Artist: Duncan Gray

Label: tici taci

Cat Number: Ticitaci065

Genre: Psychedelic Chug

 

1: The Owner (feat Snem K)

2: Twenty Seven Seven Twenty

3: Frank Lloyd Wrong

4: Afër (feat Olsi)

5: Dickie Biscuits

6; Gone & Forgotten (feat Dominic Silvani)

7: Learn More

8: Used

9: Temps Perdu

10: Don't Let Them tell You (feat Sarah Rebecca)

 

 

I’ve listened to this album quite a few times since first acquiring it as a consequence of engaging in a virtual masonic handshake with ithe brains behind it and, suffice to say, new things have come to light on each sonic engagement. A breadth of styles are covered with aplomb, what unites them however, is a steadfast devotion to the tempo of chug. ‘The Owner’ kicks things off in fine style, with Snem K’s foreboding vocals coming across like a combination of Scott Walker and Ian McCullough. The bouncy soul of ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You’ end things on an optimistic note, and is a sure fire hit pop pickers. In between there is all manner of other decent things to become imbibed by. I have no idea what the incantatory monologues featured in ‘Afër’ are referring to but, coupled with a mandolin-like guitar, the combination is mesmerising. ‘Gone & Forgotten’ is tailor made for karaoke. A little kitsch and over dramatic, but brilliant nevertheless. I’ve highlighted the vocal tracks so far, but hopefully not at the expense of everything else, all of which is made for prime time dance floor delirium. ‘Used’ is pure, panoramic chug business and has layers to get lost in, while ‘Temps Perdu’ is a more abstract, synth propelled planetarium soundtrack. Let’s hope that we all get to dance to this stuff sometime soon.

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Girl Like Me EP - Amy Dabbs (Distant Horizons)



Title: Girl like Me EP

Artist: Amy Dabbs

Label: Distant Horizons

Cat Number: DISTANT003

Genre: Deep House

 

A1: Girl Like Me

A2: Mellowday

B1: No More Distractions

B2: The Player

 

Pure house this: upfront and positive, energetic and groovy. It fairly skips along and if you can’t keep up get your breath back and come again. Listening to the whole EP is like being guided through an A to Z of soul-infused house. It’s a classy quartet which shows off a wide breadth of musical know-how, as well as a well-judged ear for mood. All of the tracks have memorable motifs, with ‘Girl Like Me’ being wonderfully catchy. Similarly ‘The Player’ scats its way into earworm ecstasy. Both ‘No More Distractions’ and ‘The Player’ inhabit the deeper end of the spectrum, making use of spoken word, chiasmic chords and epic, emotive ambiance to gain momentum from a slightly different angle. Rather like the last record reviewed, I’m sensing Ron Trent’s influence. A very classy EP which should keep the floors full in the future, I hope.

  

Monday, November 23, 2020

RA.755 Z@P

 

Whispers EP - Continental (Recit De Voyage)

 


Title: Whispers EP

Artist: Continental

Label: RDV (Recit De Voyage)

Cat Number: RDV07

Genre: Deep House

 

1: Flying Dub

2: Way U Jack

3: Whispers

4: Whispers (Cosmin TRG Remix)

 

For the latest release on Molly’s Recit De Voyage, we have a reissue from 1994 which doesn’t betray its age one bit. The three original tracks are deep house straight out of the Prescription Underground colouring book, with the effervescent analogue warmth of the title track having Ron Trent’s paws all over it. Cosmin TRG remixes it to interesting effect, stripping it down and amplifying the synth swirls. This allows more space between the beats into which is poured occasional sonic dissonance. Both the driving ‘Flying Dub’ and ‘Way U Jack’ sound very similar, with both having Murk - like flourishes to underpin their general trajectory. The former being more fluid than the latter, which occasionally pauses for thought amongst the disembodied voice and handclaps.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Hypersocial & Safety Test - Patrick Conway (ESP Institute)

 



Title: Hypersocial/Safety Test

Artist: Patrick Conway

Label: ESP Institute

Cat Number: ESP054

Genre: House

 

1: Hypersocial

2: Safety Test

 

For his second outing on ESP Institute, Patrick Conway, (not his real name, far too bland), presents the listener with a double header of contrasts. ‘Hypersocial’ is a minimal slow burner made for hot summer nights and, as things stand, psossibly warmer, hermetically-sealed winter ones. It’s an elegant piece of understated simplicity which is as meditative as it is dynamic. ‘Safety Test’ couldn’t be more different. It’s a tonally abrasive tune, composed of dense, heavy breakbeats which, while rhythmical, still manages to sound vaguely dissonant. If your after a contrasting double header, you’ve come to the right place. ‘Hypersocial’ is the one here though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Vinland In Space - Rudoh (Jugaar Records)



Title: Vinland In Space

Artist: Rudoh

Label: Jugaar Records

Cat Number: JR001

Genre: Electro/Breaks

 

1: Djemo

2: Van Turbo

3: I Feel U

4: All Is Holy

5: Van Turbo (Shedbug Remix)

 

Jugaar Records is a new “label that aims to present fresh, forward-thinking sounds of the region without compromising on quality, bending the rules to achieve much with little.” So far, so stereotypical. Not an issue, however. It’s difficult to think of new things to say in such a situation. I think whenever I finally get my act together and start a label, I’ll remain in the shadows and let the music do the talking, which is almost as clichéd. Thankfully this is a fine release. The region in question is South Asia, quite a large part of the world without a significant electronic music footprint. The minds behind it have connections in Pakistan and Bangkok and have come together to produce a fine, concise  package of breaks and electro with a dense, subtropical ambience. ‘Djemo’ is the lushest track here, ‘I Feel U’ is an ultra relaxed journey through sun-drenched vistas and ‘All is Holy’ has similar tricks up its sleeve making use of vast synth swathes paired with a pervasive humidity. Of the two versions of ‘Van Turbo’, I’m feeling the Shedbug Remix more. It’s all good though, and well worth getting to know. 

MOSAIC MIX SERIES 052 O'KEEF

ALFOS EBS 13 - Sean Johnston (14-11-2020)

 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Chart November 2020


 Tweaking Paper – D’Arcangelo (Analogical Force)


Party Hello – Spage (Ritual Acquaintance)



Shape Shifter - Versalife (Delsin)



Passing Shades – Group Rhoda (Dark Entries)



The Malcontent Vol. 2 - Duncan Gray (Tici Taci)


Piston Pump – Adam Pits (X-Kalay)


Whispers EP - Continental (Recit De Voyage)


Girl Like Me EP - Amy Dabbs (Distant Horizons)



 

Placeless EP – Losoul (Another Picture)



Integration EP – Mental Overdrive (Love OD)

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Storm Control - Plant43 (Plant43 Recordings)

 


Title: Storm Control

Artist: Plant43

Label: Plant43 Recordings

Cat Number: PLANT43004

Genre: Electro

 

A: Storm Control

B1: Hydraulic Machines

B2: Sparks In The Grey Light

 

I don't think I’ll rattle too many cages by saying that Plant43, aka Emile Facey, is one of the most consistent electro producers around. His output straddles the deep techno/electro divide and individual tunes are embellished with so many specific emotive flourishes that they linger long in the memory. And this, his latest on his eponymous imprint, could easily serve as a template for all that is good, not only in his own productions, but also for melodic electro generally. Both ‘Storm Control’ and ‘Hydraulic Machines’ perfectly illustrate Facey’s ability to craft many layered, evocative electro which is just as much at home in one’s headspace as on the dance floor. ‘Sparks In The Grey Light’, on the other hand, emphasizes a meditative aspect which is brought out by its more blissful ambience.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Exposure To Winds - 214 (2020 Vision)

 


Title: Exposure To Winds

Artist: 214

Label: 20/20 Vision

Cat Number: VIS322

Genre: Electro

 

 

1: Alpenglow

2: Exposure To Winds

3: Quick Start

4: The Night’s Shift

5: Valley Of The Ferns

6: Penny’s Crimped Funk

7: Tongue Twister

8: Ball Of Straw

9: Break Before Dawn

10: Certain Indications

11: Satellite Interference

 

Chris Roman, aka 214, makes timeless, expansive electro which is, no doubt, strongly influenced by his chosen location. Inhabiting the rural retreat of North Bend in Washington, USA has resulted in his brand of machine funk being imbued with an otherworldliness, (not entirely unique in the electro oeuvre), which, although indebted to the industrial revolution and everything that has trailed in its wake, still carries within its grooves an organic sensibility. The tracks on this album fluctuate and flat line as the moods takes them, with some, like ‘Valley of the Ferns’ , ‘Satellite Interference’ and ‘The Night’s Shift’ being all sharp edges and angular beats, whereas ‘Penny’s Crimped Funk’ ‘Alpenglow’ and ‘Exposure To Winds’ are examples of a more panoramic take. Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a proper electro album which carries more than one subliminal message. A classic piece of work which is more than the sum of its parts and a perfect idiom of the genre in question. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Ben UFO Dekmantel Selectors 2019 (Closing set)

Mosaic Mix Series 051_Audiophile

 

Maelstrom - Eliphino (Hypercolour)

 


Title: Maelstrom

Artist: Eliphino

Label: Hypercolour

Cat Number: HYPE087

Genre: House/Breaks/Electro

 

1: Maelstrom

2: Bubbling Glass

3: Eddy

4: One Day

 

This is Eliphino’s second Hypercolour outing, the first one being back in 2013, a fact the depresses me slightly, “The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills” and all that. So here we are and what has changed? His previous outing for the label, ‘I Don't Care/Understand’ matched vocals over light, syncopated beats. ‘Maelstrom’, on the other hand, spreads its influences more thinly, with the title track harkening back a little to its predecessor, ‘Bubbling Glass’ and ‘One Day’ being electro tinged, and ‘Eddy’ an epileptic exercise in breaks, neatly mixing abstraction with shape throwing. It’s an impressively varied release with each track being neither one thing nor the other.

1998 - Boxia (Balkan Digital)

 


Title: 1998

Artist: Boxia

Label: Balkan Digital

Cat Number: BD18

Genre: Techno

 

1: Ariel Acid (Biology Mix)

2: 1998

3: Call Me Romantic (Love Will Save The Day Mix)

4: Call Me Romantic (Love Will Save The Day Vocal Mix)

 

Is it possible to be claustrophobic and spacious at the same time? Probably not, but those are two of the adjectives that first come to my mind when listening to this steam hammer of a release which, in spite of its occasional dense, pounding racousness, is eloquent and sophisticated also, displaying a lightness of touch within the sonic void. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the two mixes of ‘Call Me Romantic’, which mixes industrial drone with respiratory beats as a counterpoint. The ‘Vocal Mix’ uses a low frequency spoken word to distinguish it (I don’t know what it’s saying btw). ‘Ariel Acid’ meanwhile, is a big room banger full of suppressed power and menace, while ‘1998’ is an airy adventure into a funky filled minimal techno interzone. Lovely stuff.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Time Traveler & Your Ghost In Me - Kito Jempere (Kito Jempere Recordings)

 


Title: Time Traveler/Your Ghost In Me

Artist: Kito Jempere

Label: Kito Jempere Recordings

Cat Number: KJR014/KJR015

Genre: House

 

1: Time Traveler feat. Cedric Gasaida & Lipells Mujuice

2: Time Traveler feat. Cedric Gasaida & Lipells Mujuice (Cable Toy Remix)

3: Time Traveler feat. Cedric Gasaida & Lipells Mujuice (Errotica Remix)

4: Your Ghost In Me Feat. Hard Ton Noteless (Radio Version)

5: Your Ghost In Me Feat. Hard Ton Noteless (Lipelis Remix)

6: Your Ghost In Me Feat. Hard Ton Noteless (Moonoton Call Me Back Remix)

 

Bonkers this. The original version of ‘Time Traveler’ is an aspirational neo psychedelic romp which has echoes of Larry Heard and Serge Gainsbourg (if you’re not getting that, it’s fine). It could be the result of too many drugs or not enough. The ‘Cable Toy Remix’ is starker and the production feels sharper and, consequently, more pretentious. Then we have the chugging, acidic ‘Errotica Remix’ that has ALFOS potential. ‘Your Ghost In Me (Radio Version)’ could be the next Russian entry to Eurovision. It’s extremely full of itself, but hopefully not without a sense of irony. Both the ‘Lipelis Remix’ and the ‘Moonoton Call Me Back Remix’ have the potential to do dance floor damage in a funk fuelled 1980s parallel world. Which is nice.