Ishmael Ensemble: The ‘Monday Is OK’ Mix

 

Much like the title of their critically acclaimed debut LP last year, the ‘state of flow’ is what drives Ishmael Ensemble’s output.

The Bristol-based jazz electronica collective, helmed by producer and saxophonist Pete Cunningham, first made their mark back in 2017 with a debut on local imprint Banoffee Pies, the only release that hasn’t come via their own Severn Records which has since housed four subsequent records from the five-piece.

All have pushed the boundaries of what jazz can be; merging these influences with elements of everything from psychedelia and minimalism to Drum & Bass and electronica.

Ahead of the group’s new album, ‘Visions Of Light‘, Pete takes care of this week’s Monday Is OK mix, sharing a batch of tunes that have soothed him during the pandemic.

Please introduce yourself… Who are you, where are you, what are you?

I’m Pete, I’m in Bristol and I’m a producer & saxophonist.

Tell us about the Monday mixtape you’ve put together for us. 

It’s basically a lot of the music that’s soothed me during these bizarre 18 months.

If it were to be drawn what would it look like? 

An orange wheat field with a retired horse drawn plough at the field’s edge. It’s sunny.

If it were a food what would it be? 

Peanut butter & jam on toast.

What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?

In an orange wheat field or eating peanut butter and jam on toast.

What should we be wearing?

Cotton or linen.

Where was it recorded?

At home.

Are you on the same wavelength as the boomtown rats or do you actually like Mondays?

Mondays are a good reminder there’s work to do.

Who got you hooked on electronic music?

All the drum and bass DJs and Mcs in the village I grew up in.

What would you say are your biggest influences and what are you hoping to achieve with your music?

I usually go back to the music that blew my head off on first listen, stuff like ‘Sgt Peppers’, Jim O’Rourke’s ‘Eureka’ or James Holden’s ‘at the controls’ mix. I guess my main goal is to challenge myself as a producer.

What were your original aspirations as musicians and how do you think you’re shaping up?

I’m not really sure. Myself, Jake (bass) and Mullins (guitar) have been playing music together since school. I think the fact we’re still doing stuff together is a really beautiful thing.

What was the first electronic record you heard and how did it make you feel?

Probably Roni Size & Reprazent – New Forms. It straddled the void between “bangin’ tunes” and “actual songs”, which up until then had felt pretty huge. I think it was the start of me realising that this noisy DJ music could be combined with the instruments I was learning in a more traditional setting.

How does your brain work when making music? How does it work when you aren’t?

God knows. I definitely aim to achieve a state of “flow” when making music. I know I’m out of it the moment I start thinking about what to cook for dinner.

What were the first and last records you bought?

Me and my brother bought a whole stack of Jungle, Drum & Bass and Hardcore records when we bought our first pair of decks off one of the older village DJs. The first record I bought for myself was a King Tubby compilation. The last record I bought was Emma-Jean Thackray’s brilliant debut album ‘Yellow’.

What are you obsessed with at the moment?

My dog Nelson.

If you could travel in time… Where in time would you go? Why? 

We were talking about this the other day on the way to a gig. Either The Band’s “Last Waltz” performance or a Neanderthal’s campfire. I think both would be pretty special.

Some self help questions for a Monday… 

Am I excited to dive into the challenges that I have lined up for the week?

Yes.

Am I looking forward to engaging with the people I am meeting or working with?

Yes.

Am I going to my dream job?

Kind of.

Am I being compensated fairly for the value I bring to my job?

Hmmmm.

Do I feel energised, rested, and confident?

Yes.

If you were trapped on a desert island with one other person, who would you choose? How long would it be before you eat them?

Probably Mullins as he’s got a little more to chew on than Jake. I’d give it 24 hours.

Your doctor says you need more exercise… What do you take up for exercise?

Zumba.

What’s your answer to everything?

Mostly Yes.

Anything else we need to discuss?

Not this time.

Follow Ishmael Ensemble. Photo Credit: James Koch.