You know we’re all about the new series round these parts so let’s get right into a new one then eh… Track by Track is a new series on R$N in which we ask an artist that we’re a fan of to describe each track on their album within a particular framework. By using the starting points of: Inspiration; Colour; Season and Setting as descriptive points for each of the albums tracks, the aim is to collate a tangible, cohesive description of an LP. Pretentious? Maybe but it’s already garnered some amazing responses. This week’s launch is with the very excellent Medlar and a walk through his debut opus ‘Sleep’.
When I decided to make an LP I thought a lot about the way music is structured, not only records but individual songs, live performances, DJ sets and how they relate to each other. At the time (late 2012) I seemed to be playing a lot of one hour sets, and I tended to start with quite a bit of energy and some fast mixing, whilst gradually getting deeper, and maybe play something weird towards the end, which I felt worked as a condensed version of what I enjoy playing out.
So I wanted it to start out more fun and sample-based, hoping to leave the listener wanting more, and gradually introduce more drawn out structures and get more emotional, with a trippy bit somewhere along the way.
Some of the track divisions are somewhat arbitrary as I put the whole thing together in one project, but it made sense to chop it up, partly because of the visual accompaniment which Letty Fox has been working on for most of this year; its basically a film which shes made in whats turned out to be a really similar way to the album, searching through hours of footage and splicing it together in various layers. Its in a similar vein to the video she made for Knockard Pearl. Its exceeded all of my expectations and cant wait for people to see it.
In terms of setting for listening, I intended the whole record to be something quite personal, I quite like the idea of people treating it as a headphone album or to listen at home. Not much to write about this one, I think its entirely samples. The telephone theme came about from two psychedelic rock records I bought on the same day that both featured ringing phones, weird right? I love the chaos that can come from combining samples from different times and places.
This came together whilst playing with a 909 and the walking bass sample and I pretty much finished it in the time a friend of mine was having a nap in the same room, they woke up and it was done! The LP is primarily samples recorded from records I bought around London (mainly Rat Records in Camberwell and Reckless in Soho). On 2 occasions, about 8 weeks apart, I spent a day recording vinyl, and this track was built from the second session and was the last track I completed for the record. I didnt think the beginning of the record was that dark but on reflection maybe it is, theres definitely something uneasy about it. It would be a good one to listen to when creeping around a closed office looking to steal some important files.
3 the Escape
Has its name due to the video Letty created for it, which is now what I see when I hear it! This was built from the first recording session and was the second track I finished for the album after track 10, so I used them as bookends to work between when writing which helped figure out where to go from there. I intended it to be the opening track but decided to shunt it back a little. In the same way as track 2 its made from jazz and psyche rock samples, and takes a lot of inspiration from the energy of grunge/post rock. I used to love getting lost in slightly chaotic, heavy music on headphones, so in that way I like to imagine it could be a good track for a commute. Ive heard it a lot of times now so find it hard to be objective about it, hopefully it works!=
This is two tracks stuck together. The first half is very much influenced by the main sample thats used, probably the most well-known sample on the record. It has been sampled and remixed a lot, and very well and I didnt want to compete so I made it super rough, changed the timing a little and recorded some live synths over the top. I approached the record in a very different way to writing dance music and found it all really refreshing and ideas would come very quickly. Im happy with this one as it could be technically described as house but Im not sure what Id call it. The second half conjures up imagery of moving very quickly over land or water for some reason. Get it on the ipod for those lonely hovercraft journeys.
This is supposed to be the point at which the hectic introduction section of the record dies away and it gets a little more serious and drawn out. Id wanted to make a track with the drum sample (from a late 70s disco track) for a while, and it seemed would work with the piano sample (which I lifted from a record of 70s/80s US police TV drama soundtracks, not going to say which one!). I can definitely picture playing this one out in sets unlike most of the record, but I think would work better outdoors than in a club. If I play an outdoor set that fits the bill next summer Ill be sure to try it out, sunset would be perfect. As with about half of the track names, I named them after seeing Lettys work. Naming the tracks was the hardest bit, so cheers Letty!
6 Tap Spring
A drifty thing built out of a sample of 60s girl group. Lettys video features trees passing overhead with sunlight leaking through which I wouldnt have thought of myself, but now seems the obvious visual representation and I couldnt imagine anything else. I think I put the word spring in there subconsciously, tap spring was the name of the project on my computer and I dont remember how it came to mind. I think this one might compliment some springtime al fresco dining, whilst surrounded by frolicking lambs and newborn chicks. Some light greens/yellows?
This came about purely from being presented with certain records then going home and recording bits of them. If I had gone to different record shops on that day then this track would be something entirely different. I love the whole culture of sampling and its something I find easy to romanticise. The last third of the track I completed several months before and knew I wanted it somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of the way in.
If imagining the structure of this whole record as a macrocosm of the structure of a song, then this would be the freaky middle eight!
Initially I intended to incorporate a lot more blues and gospel into the record. This just came together after finding some beautiful piano chords and crudely wacking a blues tune over the top of it and moving it around a little. Theres not much blues influenced dance music but I think with the right samples it could be great, I must make a 12 bar house track. This is the only track apart from Tides that Ive played out and I surprised myself how well it works, its nice coming out of some techno into that piano.
9 Nov Dub
Its the only track on the record which isnt primarily samples, I think theres one disco break in there. Most of it is a juno through a tape delay. Delia Derbyshire also features near the end, whos definitely one of my all-time favourite artists. Written last November on what must have been a pretty grey drizzly evening by the sounds of it, so this is definitely a winter track!
Perfect on the headphones whilst browsing a seasonal German Christmas market.
10 Be There
I decided to try and make an LP after I finished this track. It didnt seem right for a 12 and seemed it would make more sense as part of something bigger. Its pretty raw and works off of a few samples that (I think) work with each other quite nicely. I think as a child I experienced some synesthesia, I remember visualising numbers and letters as certain colours, but Ive never seemed to really have it for music. But this track is definitely blue in my mind! I guess wanted the album to be almost a gradient of red/orange at the beginning, and ending purply blue, a bit more synthetic and crystalline. Its going to be strange seeing the record released as Ive lived with it for a while now, but I hope it makes sense to people.