Track By Track: 96 Back – Love Letters, Nine Through Six
Earlier this year 96 Back announced a trilogy of releases on Local Action Records.
He kicked things off in March with his ‘9696 Dream’ mixtape, followed in July by an EP called ‘Flex Time’, but it’s the final instalment – long player ‘Love Letters, Nine Through Six’ – that really feels like a coming of age moment.
As well as using his voice for the first time and layering it over diverse strains of experimental pop, the LP is dramatic and ambitious, balancing soft and vibrant points throughout. He still flaunts his dance floor precision on certain tracks and the emotive melodies we’ve come to know him for on his releases for CPU and Hypercolour are ever-present.
Speaking about the LP, 96 Back explains: “This is a record I feel like I’ve been trying to write for years, it feels like the most accurate body of work to match the ideas in my mind. Trying to project a lot of the records I hold very dear to me through this lens, interpreting how they sound to me and merging them with ideas of finding the drama and excitement in the full spectrum of emotions on the tip of my tongue, that’s what ended up being Love Letters, Nine Through Six.”
Below he guides us through each track in more detail, sharing the origins, processes and the moments that inspired them.
If I remember right, I think this is the first track I wrote that I knew needed to be on the album.
I had just spent a week in France, writing with Tryphème, and started penning the sketch for it whilst on a layover flying back from France. I recorded the weird vocal elements under my breath in to my phone and played everything in on my laptop keyboard.
I have this particular obsession with tracks stopping and turning their head and walking in a different direction, trying to capture a feeling of disorient without leaving the world rules it establishes. Felzin was probably the first time I felt like I’d explored that properly and sets the groundwork for that idea playing out more long form over the course of the LP.
9 To Find 6
This is one of my favourite tunes I’ve written and I think perhaps best sums up how I view the record in its colour and energy.
It’s also an abnormal result of process that’s quite rare for me, in that I wrote and finished it in under 40 or so minutes. A lot of my ethos and approach to writing is built around spending enough time with source material and conventionally “bad” sounds and coaxing them into something resolved and fitting, so it was a funny feeling of magic in a bottle to write a quick melody and bassline and do 1 take of vocals and have a track that I really liked.
I’m glad I held on to that, it gave me a lot of confidence in being more intuitive in writing the rest of the LP and also knowing I can express ideas and emotions lyrically instead of always beating myself up over being a good enough producer to do so.
This track, to me, is the spiritually most direct link to the beginning of the trilogy this year, the mixtape. I wanted to take the ideas I had learnt from writing the mixtape and try and evoke them under the ideas and framework I had for Love Letters.
It’s not huge change, but it’s enough in my head where I felt like the point was made, slightly more drama and a sheen and pop in the production that the mixtape veered away from.
‘Wisp’ was written towards the end of the writing stage of the record. I hit this sweet spot where I was writing 4-5 simple and effective ideas a day and finishing most of them. It was also an attempt in being more comfortable with tracks existing as they are and not overstepping their mark, almost a waypoint to rest at after three arrangement heavy tracks.
This track exists very much in the same space as Wisp and is interesting to me in that I clearly at this point was a lot more confident in my use of samples to the beginning of the writing process.
They’re not overt but I have fondness for the particular sample in this track and the way it plays with the strings. Love Letters being the longest time I’ve taken to work on something, it’s interesting to here myself change as a producer as I wrote it.
Teach me Tenderness
Another theme of the record I wanted to play with was the obsession of setting up environments in which the rigidness of a computer acts in ways that feel organic and intuitive, this applies for the way I want to mix music and the actual sound sources and their processing.
It’s probably pretty easy to palm that off as putting a random movement on a number of parameters but I actually try and avoid randomness wherever I can and more so try to build organicness by letting simple processes interact with each other in ways I don’t expect.
This track was definitely an expression of that, I wanted this bed of sound underpinned by very obvious and pop-like chords with very midi-core sounds for the pianos and vocaloids and for them to interact in odd ways with the moving sounds around them.
Don’t Die ft. Joe Paisan
It was this track that made me decide on even calling the record “Love Letters, Nine Through Six”.
I wrote it with my dear and close friend Tom and it was a short process of bouncing stems back and forth and very quickly gathering up and idea.
I really wanted it to be a “love letter” to jersey club in a way that I think I realise all my music is to different genres and medias. It has an entire Jersey tune that tom wrote underneath everything else that we then started writing on top of, and once the core ideas were there I tried morphing it into a love song of sorts with a proper crooning bridge.
Love Compact/ Vibrant Colours reprise
I’ve always liked reprises in albums, you start a record and then a little later you’ve lost track of time and you’re taken back to 10-20 minutes ago. There’s a familiarity to that, alongside a wink and a nod that feels very satisfying.
I guess with this reprise I didn’t want that familiarity to rear it’s head until the second half, catching you off guard after having some fun with beat down stuff.
This interlude marks the third act of the record I’d say, I wanted it to feel like a cig break, really pulsing with a dullness that feels like a club ten metres away or so.
I almost imagine the ASMR speak is a drunk conversation happening next to you that you can’t quite hear but you keep trying to listen in on.
I Don’t Want To Play Tonight ft. Tryphème
This was the fruit of me and Tryphème’s week together writing, I think it feels especially sweet and dear to me in respect to the week we spent surrounding writing it. I often associate myself with not working outside of my bedroom very much and sometimes I think that hinders my influences for what I write. That week we spent every day waking in forests and the countryside and thus when we sat down to write this the tone of what it wanted to be came so naturally and I hold those emotions alongside some very dear memories.
Feel hard is my attempt at a stadium tune and the emotions that come with that, really allowing myself to lean into big over the top sounds in a way that feels alien and foreign. Warping the vox lines into lead guitar lines by the end of the song and being quite abrasive with the composition.
Melt You ft. Iceboy Violet
Fittingly Melt You was the last track I wrote for the album, time wise. It’s attempts to be about the sounds presented over the record melting into a pot of electronics and warped noises. Iceboy is one of my dear dear friends and the lyrics they wrote fit so perfectly for the track with barely any discussion between us on the themes of the record. It feels to me an apt culmination of sounds and ideas over the record.