Following releases for International Feel and their own Nightshift Records, Berlin duo Private Agenda have just released a new instrumental EP Primary Colours on London label Needwant. Conceived as an exercise in synesthesia, the record's four tracks take their titles from and are inspired by earthy, primitive hues such as 'Ochre' and 'Umber'. It's their most stripped-down release yet, and striking in its quiet assurance.
Just one glance at the tracklist for Private Agenda's mix let us know we were in for a treat, and it certainly lives up to expectations, nestling their own productions alongside tracks by Cocteau Twins, Mark Barrott and Gigi Masin. Listen below, download if you like, then read on for the Q&A.
Gonno - Already Almost
Craig Leon, Terre Roche & Cassel Webb - Nommo
Mark Barrott - Cascades
Solid Doctor - Open Universe
Tempelhof & Gigi Masin - Komarebi
Imaginary Softwoods - Another First / Sea Machine
Karel Arbus & Eiji Takamatsu - Secret Rodeo
Vermont - Gebirge
Private Agenda - Umber
Mark Isham - Sympathy And Acknowledgement
Cocteau Twins - Love’s Easy Tears
Solid Doctor - Open Universe
Please introduce yourself… Who are you, where are you and what are you?
Individually, we are Martin and Sean. Together, we are Private Agenda. We’re believers in that impulsive, Balearic spirit of writing and playing music that comfortably jumps genres dependent on mood and place, so you might find our records in the disco, house, pop or ambient sections of your record store. You might also find us queueing at airport security either in Berlin or London.
What does your music sound like?
Your after-the-club selection: breezy balearica to bring you back down south from a spinny high and those pop tunes you didn’t play out at the club, but are actually your favourite.
Tell us about the Monday mix you've put together for us.
With this mix, we’ve tried to capture the mood and feel of works that inspired our latest EP, Primary Colours, which is our most intimate and introspective work so far. On the release we stripped the instrumentation to the bare essentials: static, analogue electronic instruments and an upright piano alone form the sound palette, but it’s resulted in something transformative: melodic and brooding ambient music. This mix channels a similar approach.
Where was the mix recorded?
At 32,000 feet, cruising above the Atlantic Ocean with the warm hum of the the plane engines seeping in through the headphones.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?
In your bedroom, hidden under the bedsheets with the lights off and your headphones on. This one’s personal.
What should we be wearing?
Clean underwear. That’s the only non-negotiable when it comes to clothing and fashion.
What would be your dream setting to record a mix?
The location is the most important factor. Mancuso’s Loft back in the day would have been pretty neat. No need to mix and you’d be in great company.
Which track in the mix is your current favourite?
Imaginary Softwoods - 'Another First/Sea Machine'. We revisited that track recently whilst finishing off the Primary Colours EP. Everything about it is awe-inspiring, so we’ve given it centre-stage in the mix.
What is your favourite album of all time?
Sean: The Chameleons - Script of the Bridge. I’m a sucker for anything even remotely post-punk sounding, but this snarling, early 80s Mancunian indie at its finest.
Martin: It’s an impossible question… I guess at the moment the one on repeat is Sasha Matson - Steel Chords. After writing some incredible chamber music he eventually went on to score some B movie about a baseball mom. We all got to set our aims high.
What was the first electronic record you heard and how did it make you feel?
Sean: Not the first I heard for sure, but the first that had me straight down to Woolworths for the CD single was The Chemical Brothers - 'Star Guitar'. A six-minute spine-tingler that still gets me toe-tapping whenever I hear it. Whenever I’m sat at the window seat on a train, I’m in the video as well.
Martin: I mean, I’m sure it must have made a mark on my impressionable young mind – we had little choice in the car with my parents as to what would be on the stereo: classical music (along with a running pop quiz “Who composed this? What key is it in?”) or All Saints’ self-titled album. I have no idea how it ended up in the car but it got an extraordinary amount of play time on long journeys.
If you could go collaborate with anyone throughout history, who would it be and why?
We’d love to have Nicolas and Jean-Benoît from Air on production duties for a record and to invite Daphne Oram to tinker away on a Moog. That’d be a lush-sounding, forward-thinking record we reckon.
How did you start making music and what is your current setup?
Martin: I mean, Sean and I first met in school, and our first conversation went something like “do you think we should maybe meet up for a band rehearsal some time and try something out?” We started at the beginning with synth pop, and we haven’t really moved on... Our live setup changes pretty often as we’re playing both behind the booth in clubs and on stage at gig venues, so it depends on the show. A few things always come with us though: a Fender Marauder, the Roland SH-101 and a duffel bag of reverb pedals always seem to make it for the ride.
What’s more important, the track you start on or the track you end on?
Sean: The closer is the one that can leave the greatest lasting impression on a crowd for sure, but it’s the first that’ll determine whether there’ll be any crowd to share that moment with. From a DJing perspective, the first is really important: nailing the segue from one artist to another, finding a middle-ground between the end of their set and what you envisaged starting yours with (sometimes a place you really hadn’t intended to start from with a crowd in a mood totally different too). It’s tougher skill to get that one right and setting the tone than playing the confetti and fireworks closer for sure.
What were the first and last records you bought?
Sean: 12’’ of 'Get Up and Get in the Mix' by Magnum Force [Paula Records] from Superior Elevation in Brooklyn last weekend. My first bit of wax was a copy of Sonic Youth - Goo. I stuck loyal to CD-Rs for ages (still am now to be honest), so many of the duds are hidden in plastic jewel cases at my parents’ place.
If this mix was an edible thing, what would it taste like?
Dark Chocolate: bittersweet
If it was an animal what would it be?
Something lonesome but majestic... a snow leopard maybe?
How does your brain work when you're making music? How does it work when you aren’t?
Martin: I’m usually very aware of myself when I’m composing or mixing music. There’s this gauge of how deeply lost, or not lost I am in the sound and this usually is a good indicator of how clear the message is coming through. Normally my concentration span is pretty poor, but it probably quadruples or so in music situations.
What are you obsessed with at the moment?
Sean: Mount Kimbie’s new record and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups - maybe the best thing to have come out the US.
Martin: That is so disgusting Sean. Me, Cigarettes. And reading the news - I’m starting to think it’s something I should do less of.
What's your answer to everything?
Martin: Probably another cup of coffee, even if you don’t think you need it.
Sean: Gin & Cocteau Twins
One record in your collection that is impossible to mix into anything?
Sean: Elias Rahbani and his Orchestra - 'Liza Liza'. Incredible tune with a 4/4 beat so not that tough to mix technically, but it’s around 135 bpm, so quite a lot faster than most records we’d normally play out. I find myself slowly nudging the pitch of other records up and up and up just to sneak this into sets.
Upcoming in the world of Private Agenda?
An EP on Nu Northern Soul, a collaborative effort on Tusk Wax, Primary Colours pt. 2 & a debut album
Anything else we need to discuss?
Nah, it’s only Monday...we can save it till tomorrow.
Primary Colours is out now on Needwant. Order it here.