Track By Track: Casino Times – Familiar Circles
Now seven years strong into releasing fantastic house and disco records, Wolf Music have just released their 4th full-length, the debut album from London deep house duo Casino Times (aka long-term label friends Nicholas Church and Joseph Spencer).
Casino Times first appeared on Wolf Music with an EP back in 2013. Since then they've released on labels including Futureboogie, Permanent Vacation, and their own Casino Edits imprint. Familiar Circles presents a chance for the duo to stretch out a bit, and experiment with structure, texture and rhythm.
You can stream previews of the record below, and let Nicholas and Joseph guide you through its making, track by track:
For this project, we wanted to do some shorter transition tracks that complimented the mood of the record without going overboard. ‘Intro’ is simply a transposed string sample we ripped, layered with some additional textures, that sets the tone for the album and leads gently into ‘Piano Hype’. We can’t imagine hearing ‘Piano Hype’ without hearing this first.
We have always been terrible at naming and organising our session files and about 3 years ago we named a demo ‘Piano Hype’, which was essentially a beat-less track with a frantic piano loop and a muffled bass line.
Our agent Matt loved the song, but we somehow lost the original file and only had a poorly mixed MP3 version of it. Matt was really keen to release this track, so we decided to try and recreate it taking some of the original ideas of the ‘Piano Hype’ demo – but updating it with a more organic sound.
The track is built around the piano loop that was sampled from an old German jazz record. We like how you can hear some of the high-end electronic textures in the sample as the filter gently moves up and down throughout the track. We always try to leave the unintentional, textures, clicks, pops and percussive elements in when we sample something, as we find it makes the music a bit less clinical.
A key focus for us during this project was to try and break away from 4/4 as much as we could, whilst still maintaining a relatively club ready sound. ‘Oddity’ (Joe’s favourite from the album) we think demonstrates this well. The vocal sample comes from a song by a famous vocal group from 1950s/ 60s – and turned what was originally quite a simple synth/drum track into something quite emotional and raw. We haven’t found a spot for it in our sets just yet, but you never know.
‘Carlotta’ is probably the oldest track on the album, with the original demo being made around 2012 – 2013. It is named after a canal boat that our good friend Ali Fraser lived on when he lent us his microKORG to play with. Ali appeared as High Hopes on our previous EP with Wolf Music (WOLFEP023) on the track ‘Stirling’. He always has some great ideas and we’re hoping some of the amazing music he’s been making surfaces soon.
We really enjoy the sounds Korg synths produce (we also have an MS-2000), so introducing the microKORG into the studio felt natural. The bass, lead and parts of the percussion were all made using that synth.
Love In Time
‘Love In Time’ is based around just two loops, the drums and a fairly recognisable vocal loop (which also has the strings and bass line tucked into it). We actually misplaced the session file (again) for the track arrangement, so all we had was a raw mix of the track to work with. This gave birth to the frantic chopping of the whole loop, forcing us to get a bit more inventive with the basic elements we had.
We’ve been playing this one out for well over a year now and it always gets an amazing reaction.
What (Miracle Beat)
The vocal is sampled from a famous '80s electro artist and the strings and keys from an experimental jazz record (we seem to have a few of those lying around). We wanted to do something really drum machine-centric that gave a nod to the artist featured in the electro sample, but in a contemporary way that still had our own style of building and releasing tension.
‘What (Miracle Beat)’ was a late addition to the album. It provides a good insight into the kind of thing we are currently working/ trying to achieve in the studio. We have been experimenting further with different (for us) beat structures that allow us to work with new rhythms that aren’t necessarily restricted by 4/4. It’s important for us to try and mix things up in the studio, it keeps us on our feet and encourages us to move forward and develop our ideas.
‘What (Miracle Beat)’ is Nick’s favourite on the album and we are hoping to share with you more music in a similar vein soon.
I Hope This Finds You Well (feat. Desert Sound Colony)
We met Liam a long time ago through playing the Flux parties in Leeds and he’s remained a good friend since. His latest creative offering in the form of Desert Sound Colony is really exciting, with the band's music harking back to early Balearic and New Wave sounds (which we love). We were looking for an excuse to get his vocals on one of our tracks, so we were thrilled when we sent him the demo of ‘I Hope This Finds You Well’ – he suggested providing vocals. He created this haunting, delicate tone for the song and it brought a whole new depth and soul to the very mechanical backdrop we provided.
At the time of writing we were both experiencing some of the harsh realities of living in a big city like London. We wanted to portray an underlying sense of melancholy and we think Liam’s vocals help the listener interpret that.
We will be returning the favour to Desert Sound Colony in the form of a Casino Times remix in May – so keep an ear out for that!
The recording you can hear playing throughout the track is of Nick walking through Liverpool Street station. Towards the end of the track you can hear the announcer mention Clapton (where we currently live and make music), we felt that this was a nice nod to where the music comes from.
Just like ‘Intro’, the focus is on a simple, warm textured string sample with additional sounds fading in and out to create a sense of space and movement. ‘Transit’ appears before ‘Overcome’ on the digital tracklist of the album and just like ‘Intro’ into ‘Piano Hype’, helps set the mood for the next track.
‘Overcome’ has taken a few forms in its long life – the track is an attempt at something a bit darker for us, but still using the big room atmospheres we’re so fond of. It was originally constructed around that main riff that you first hear in the late stages of the introduction. We feel the main riff really drives the whole composition.
There was an earlier version of the track without the arpeggio running through it, but we feel this final version is a good representation of our mild fascination with Acid-esque sounds and textures. You can hear the earlier demo of ‘Overcome’ without it in our Rinse FM Show from January 2015.
The track also takes some inspiration from Endian's 'Two Chords Deep’, which is ironic as we were lucky enough to have George’s skills and experience on the final mix of the album at the Secret Studio in Hackney. We always look forward to hearing what he comes up with in the studio.
We had to have something uplifting to finish with and ‘Foundations’ does just that. Built with summer in mind, we really wanted to stretch out and do something that wasn’t restrained melodically. There are lots of different synths and arpeggios in there and it ties up the album in a suitably epic way (wait for the breakdown at the very end of the track for an unsettling finale).
Familiar Circles is out now on Wolf Music.